As I’ve been speculating for sometime now, it appears that Belgian brewer InBev that acquired Anheuser-Busch last year is getting ready to sell Busch Gardens / SeaWorld.
From the Financial Times:
Busch Entertainment, the group’s theme park business, which owns SeaWorld Orlando, is expected to be one of the first business units put up for sale with a possible price of up to $4bn.
FT lists a number of potential bidders for the properties including U.S. companies Disney, Universal and Six Flags as well as British companies Merlin Entertainments and Candover (which owns Parques Reunidos.) The strengthening of the U.S. dollar may make such a purchase less attractive to European buyers at this point in time, though. (Last July when the merger was first approved, a weak dollar made these companies strong contenders as the property then would have been a bargain for them.) Furthermore, both Merlin and Candover seem to be relatively small potatoes when compared to the Busch Entertainment properties contained in this sale and certainly when put up against the U.S. bidders. On the domestic front, Six Flags was losing money before the recession hit, so I’d take them out of the running despite their statement that they’ll ask for the prospectus. That leaves Disney and Universal as the most likely purchasers.
Neither company is immune to the recession and both recently shed employees. That being said, Disney offered voluntary buyouts to executives while Universal went straight to layoffs. That would seem to indicate that Disney is the most financially sound of all the potential bidders.
All this would seem to point to Virginia being one step closer to bringing Disney’s America here and all the economic benefits it will entail for the Commonwealth. And remember, if this happens, the first place to raise the idea and push for it was Virginia Virtucon!
And, as an aside, can’t you just picture this now?
I’d definitely want to get a park hopper pass the next time I’m in Orlando if it would get me into both the Magic Kingdom AND Seaworld!