May 5, 2016 10:05 a.m. ET
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., which recently said it would abandon breeding its signature killer whales, said a measure of profit for the year would land below analysts’ expectations, sending its shares tumbling.
Still, the company posted a smaller quarterly loss and said revenue increased as attendance at its parks rose in its latest quarter from a year ago.
For the full year, SeaWorld expects adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of between $335 million and $365 million, well below Wall Street’s estimates of $379 million of Ebitda.
Shares fell 8.1% to $17.90 in premarket trading.
In March, SeaWorld said it would stop breeding killer whales and cease its theatrical shows featuring them, a dramatic shift as heavy public scrutiny in recent years pressured attendance. Still, the shift won’t happen quickly — the company has nearly 30 killer whales, one of which is pregnant, and it says they typically live up to 50 years.
While the March announcement came at the end of the quarter, Chief Executive Joel Manby said he expects the changes to contribute to a performance improvement over time.
The theme-park operator has navigated turbulent waters in recent years, which included the release of “Blackfish,” a 2013 documentary that claims orcas, also known as killer whales, suffer in captivity, and the December 2014 ouster of its chief executive as the company planned a restructuring.
Attendance increased 2.6% to 3.3 million in the quarter.
SeaWorld attributes 40% of the increase to the opening of a separate water-park-only gate at its San Antonio location. The rest came from an earlier Easter holiday and additional operational days at its Virginia park.
The company’s Florida locations were hurt by fewer guests coming from Latin America, where a number of countries are battling economic troubles. Rainy weather and reduced discounting on season passes also hurt results in the sunshine state.
In addition to operating namesake parks, the company’s portfolio includes Busch Gardens and the Sea Rescue television show. Mr. Manby said Thursday that SeaWorld will this summer open two new roller coasters in Florida and a new dolphin habitat in Texas.
For the quarter, SeaWorld reported a loss of $84 million, or $1 a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $43.6 million, or 51 cents a share.
Excluding special items, the company posted a loss of 56 cents. Revenue grew 2.6% to $220.2 million. Analysts had projected a loss of 64 cents a share on $216.3 million in revenue, according to Thomson Reuters.