The Blackstone Group announced Friday it has sold a 21 percent stake in SeaWorld Entertainment to a Chinese company, which opens the door for expansion in China’s thriving theme park industry.

Zhonghong Group will buy the stock at $23 per share, a 33 percent premium to Thursday’s stock closing price of $17.31.

Blackstone is currently SeaWorld’s largest shareholder with 19.5 million share, according to FactSet. At $23 a share, the deal is valued at $448.5 million.

As part of the deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter of 2017, SeaWorld will advise Zhonghong on the development and design of theme parks operated in China. SeaWorld will expand its board to 11 members to add two Zhonghong executives.

“Zhonghong Group has a strong track record of performance in the leisure and travel industries, and a solid management team with valuable experience in theme parks, family entertainment and real estate development in Asia.” SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said in a news release.

The agreement follows three years of struggling sales from SeaWorld, which vowed to end its orca breeding program last March following opposition from animal rights activists. Animal welfare protests are not as popular in China as the United States.

China has 39 marine mammal parks, including large attractions such as the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom near Hong Kong.

Blackstone bought SeaWorld in 2009, then took the company public in 2013. The purchase was just months before an orca killed trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld Orlando. The 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” questioned how the theme park treated its animals and brought a public backlash and declining attendance.

Once the deal is completed, Blackstone will no longer hold any equity interest in SeaWorld or have any board seats.

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