Theme park operator SeaWorld posts wider 4Q loss as theme park attendance continues to fallsea

Industries Associated Press

SeaWorld reported a wider loss in its fourth quarter as attendance to its theme parks continued to fall.

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Its shares fell in premarket trading Thursday.

SeaWorld has been battling negative publicity after a 2013 documentary, "Blackfish," suggested that its treatment of animals may have led to the deaths of trainers. The marine parks are known for shows featuring killer whales and other animals.

SeaWorld has taken out newspaper ads to defend its practices. And last year, the company said it would build larger environments for animals and fund additional research and programs to protect ocean health and whales in the wild.

Attendance to the company's 11 parks between October and December fell 2.2 percent to 4.4 million from 4.5 million in the same period a year ago. Attendance fell 4.3 percent during the entire year to 22.4 million from 23.4 million in 2013.

The Orlando, Florida-based company also said Thursday that it expects to select a new CEO within the next six to nine months. Chairman David D'Alessandro took over as interim CEO in January after Jim Atchison stepped down.

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During the fourth quarter, the company reported a loss of $25.4 million, or 29 cents per share. That compares with a loss of $13 million, or 14 cents per share, in the same period a year before.

Adjusted to remove one-time items, it had a loss of 21 cents per share, a larger loss than the 15 cent cents per share analysts expected, according to FactSet.

Revenue fell 2.8 percent to $264.5 million, beating the $253.2 million that analysts expected.

For 2014, the company reported net income of $49.9 million, or 57 cents per share, compared with $51.9 million, or 59 cents per share, in 2013. Adjusted earnings were 68 cents per share, below the 73 cents per share analysts expected.

Revenue fell 5.6 percent to $1.38 billion in 2014, above the $1.37 billion analysts expected.

Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. fell more than 7 percent in premarket trading Thursday. They are down about 41 percent in the last 12 months.