Sea World, Busch Gardens sold for $2.7 billion

Anheuser-Busch InBev reaches a deal with Blackstone on Busch Entertainment, which operates 10 theme parks across the nation.

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busch_gardens.03.jpg
The SheiKra ride at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Anheuser-Busch InBev said Wednesday that it will sell its theme park business -- including the Sea World and Busch Gardens parks nationwide -- to buyout firm Blackstone Group for up to $2.7 billion.

Blackstone will pay the world's largest brewer $2.3 billion in cash and up to $400 million on whatever return it makes on Busch Entertainment Corp. (BEC), the second-largest U.S. entertainment park operator.

The widely anticipated deal is seen as a way for the Belgian brewer to pay down debt following its $52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch last year.

"The sale of BEC represents another important milestone in our commitment to de-leverage the company and will also allow us to continue to focus on our core brewing business," Carlos Brito, chief executive of Anheuser-Busch InBev, said in a statement.

BEC runs 10 amusement parks throughout the nation, including the SeaWorld parks in Orlando, Fla., San Antonio and San Diego, as well as the Busch Gardens parks in Tampa, Fla., and Williamsburg, Va. The parks receive 25 million visitors every year and employs 25,000 workers, according to the company.

Brito called the parks a "high performing asset," but said BEC is "not a core business for Anheuser-Busch InBev."

The deal expands Blackstone's portfolio of amusement parks. The New York-based firm has stakes in Universal Orlando and Madame Tussauds wax museum.

"Blackstone sees tremendous opportunity for investing in leading businesses within the media and entertainment industries, where we have significant expertise," said Michael Chae, Blackstone's senior managing director, in a statement.

Shares of Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), which brews Budweiser, were up 19 cents to $46.85 on the New York Stock Exchange. Blackstone's (BX) stock rose 1 cent to $14.54. To top of page

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