Anheuser Busch parks face uncertain future
Jul 15, 2008
With Anheuser Busch being bought out by Belgian beermaker InBev, industry insiders are generating speculation as to the fate of the company's Busch Entertainment Corp (BEC.)
Anheuser's BEC oversees the ten theme parks, including Orlando's Busch Gardens and Sea World. InBev spokeswoman Marianne Amssoms stated that while no decision has been made regarding the theme parks, they "are very mindful of their important role in those communities and will seek to help preserve that role."
With InBev paying $52 billion to acquire Anheuser Busch, it is believed that they will sell the parks division and apply it to the debt they incurred with this purchase.
The President of International Theme Park Services Inc., Dennis Spiegel, believes that the sale of the BEC theme parks will be in the $3.5 billion to $4 billion range. He further commented on his belief that the sale is inevitable as Anheuser Busch would have needed the revenue to oppose the InBev purchase.
Spiegel stated "These properties will not be put at a fire-sale level by InBev, nor would they have if they had been sold by Anheuser-Busch. If you would have told me a year ago that SeaWorld would have been spun off, I would have said 'What have you been smoking?'"
When asked who would be the most likely buyer, Spiegel said "Certainly Cedar Fair and Six Flags have their own issues, and it doesn't look like it's something that Disney would do -- they typically don't buy other brands -- and Universal is not in the market to be expanding. I think whoever gets them will hang onto them." He further speculated that an international buyer will be the most likely candidate.
While Anheuser's BEC division has been profitable in recent years with $162.9 million in profits in 2007, the parks have seen a downturn, posting $3.8 million in losses in the first quarter of 2008. It is believed that this is a result of the current economy and escalating fuel costs.
In addition to Anheuser-Busch's 10 theme parks in the United States, it has four more parks slated to be opened in Dubai in 2012.