SeaWorld Surges After Free Beer and New Rides Drive Visitor Growth

(Bloomberg) -- SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. rose the most in more than five years after reporting a steep rise in theme-park attendance and a tentative settlement in a long-running Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.

Attendance at the company’s parks rose 4.8 percent in the second quarter, a critical summer stretch. On a conference call with investors Monday, management cited rising season-pass sales, new rides and a free-beer promotion in Tampa and Orlando, Florida. The company also said it saw a strong uptick in July.

SeaWorld Surges After Free Beer and New Rides Drive Visitor Growth

The results mark a turnaround at SeaWorld, which has battled animal-rights activists who say the parks shouldn’t keep killer whales in captivity. The company also recorded an estimated $4 million expense to settle with federal regulators who’ve been investigating claims prior management wasn’t candid with investors when discussing the business impact of “Blackfish,” a 2013 documentary critical of the company.

SeaWorld, which owns its namesake ocean-themed parks, as well as Busch Gardens and some water parks, reported second-quarter results that beat analysts’ expectations, even as other amusement-park operators reported weaker results due to storms on the East Coast. The company set a new target of $50 million in cost savings as well.

“We are impressed with the strong performance despite weather headwinds,” Wells Fargo Securities analyst Tim Conder said in a research note Monday.

Shares of SeaWorld gained 17 percent to $24.67 at 10:58 a.m. in New York after rising as high as $26 to mark the biggest intraday gain since April 2013. The stock had advanced 56 percent through Aug. 3.

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