Trouble Continues for SeaWorld as Third Quarter Earnings Plummet

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. said Wednesday that its third-quarter earnings fell 28 percent from a year ago as attendance to its theme parks fell.

Shares of the company, one of San Diego’s most recognizable attractions, fell 10 percent in morning trading Wednesday

SeaWorld has been battling negative publicity surrounding its treatment of killer whales after "Blackfish," a documentary that aired last year, suggested its treatment of the mammals provokes violent behavior in them and has led to the death of trainers.

Attendance to its theme parks fell 5.6 percent to 8.4 million in the third quarter from 8.9 million in the same period a year ago, SeaWorld said.

“Clearly, 2014 has been a challenging year, but I am confident we are taking the necessary steps to address our near term challenges and position the company to deliver value over the long term,” SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison said in a statement on the park’s website.

SeaWorld is attributing the decline bad publicity and competition from other popular attractions, such as the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando.

Atchison said the park will start a $50 million cost savings initiative, although he didn’t reveal specifics on the initiative. He also said SeaWorld would boost marketing to spotlight new attractions and has longterm plans to expand in the Middle East and Asia.

The Orlando, Florida-based company said it earned $87.2 million, or $1 per share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with $120.7 million, or $1.34 per share, a year ago.

Revenue fell 7.9 percent to $495.8 million in the period. That number beat the $494.2 million analysts expected, according to Zacks.

Shares of SeaWorld dropped $1.90, or 10.2 percent, to $16.70 in morning trading Wednesday. Shares of SeaWorld had been down 31 percent through Tuesday's close since its initial public offering in April 2013. They have fallen 36 percent since the beginning of the year.

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