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SeaWorld IPO makes a splash, up 24 percent

Private equity firm Blackstone Group LP backed away from its proposed takeover of Dell Inc. this week, even as Blackstone more than doubled its investment in SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. on the theme-park company's initial public offering.

In SeaWorld's first day of trading Friday, its shares leaped $6.52, or 24.15 percent, to close at $33.52.

SeaWorld, the owner of theme parks famous for water shows featuring killer whales and dolphins, and its backers raised $702 million in the initial public offering.

The first SeaWorld opened in San Diego in 1964. It was bought by beer giant Anheuser-Busch in 1989 and combined with the brewer's Busch Gardens park in Florida. Blackstone bought the company in 2009.

The company had net income of $77.4 million on revenue of $1.42 billion in 2012.

Blackstone, which had owned all of SeaWorld's equity, was set to hold about 68 percent following the deal. The IPO price valued Blackstone's stake, along with the cash received from the public offering, at about $2.2 billion, more than twice the firm's $1 billion equity investment in the leveraged buyout, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and a person with knowledge of the original transaction. Including dividends of more than $600 million that SeaWorld had already paid Blackstone over the past two years, it's almost three times Blackstone's initial investment.

Also Friday, Dell Inc. shares fell sharply after Blackstone withdrew from the battle to take the company private, citing the PC maker's "rapidly eroding financial profile." Dell's shares fell below the $13.65 bid price in the original buyout proposal presented by chief executive Michael Dell and private-equity firm Silver Lake.

Blackstone's exit cleared a major obstacle to Michael Dell's game plan, although his bid to take the company private is still being challenged by billionaire investor Carl Icahn. Analysts said Blackstone's move strengthens Michael Dell's hand in the buyout battle.

The Blackstone pullout means the firm "doesn't see the upside it normally would like in a deal," analyst Ray Wang of Constellation Research told MarketWatch.


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