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From the Tampa Tribune:

 

Busch Bid May Spin Off Parks

 

TAMPA - Busch Entertainment Corp, which operates Busch Gardens Tampa Bay along with nine other U.S. theme parks, could become an attractive buyout target if a Belgian brewer moves ahead with a $46 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc., according to published reports.

 

The Financial Times, based in London said in published reports that InBev NV is considering a bid to acquire Busch Entertainment parent Anheuser-Busch Cos., based in St. Louis. Neither Busch Entertainment nor its parent company would provide any details of discussions Tuesday.

 

InBev probably wouldn't be interested in operating the company's theme park division, which accounts for about 7 percent of Anheuser-Busch's $19 billion annual revenue, The Financial Times reported on its web site, ft.com.

 

The Financial Times reported that a takeover of Anheuser-Busch would be financed, in part, by the sale of the entertainment division. A sale of Busch Entertainment properties and an Anheuser-Busch packaging unit could net $6 billion, the Financial Times reported.

 

Busch Gardens in Tampa attracts an estimated 4.5 million annually.

 

Paul Ruben, North American editor for Park World Magazine, based in Rochester, N.Y., said Busch Entertainment could be a successful operation without the parent company's backing.

 

"Busch Entertainment would do well as a standalone company without brewery company support," Ruben said. "They have been profitable and would continue to be profitable.

 

"Whether Busch Entertainment would fall under new ownership or not, there is no doubt in my mind their parks would continue to operate well."

 

Ruben said Busch Entertainment ranks among the top three U.S. theme park operators along with Walt Disney Co. and Universal Studios. He said he would be surprised if either of those corporations would express interest in buying Busch Entertainment and its theme parks.

 

"You never know who might emerge from the woodwork," Ruben said. "Perhaps it could be some of the current stockholders of Anheuser-Busch or a big financial investment company."

 

Ruben said regional theme parks such as Busch Gardens Tampa Bay would continue to perform well despite the current U.S. economic slump and high gas prices, but parks in Orlando and other tourism destinations could suffer if the downturn continues.

 

"Because Busch Gardens Tampa Bay does not have hotels as part of its property, it is more of a regional theme park, unlike Sea World and Disney in Orlando, which are in ground zero for theme parks relying on tourists," Ruben said.

 

News reports of a potential buyout have circulated in recent weeks, as Anheuser-Busch continues to face tough competition in the United States while consolidation is under way in the industry.

 

I REALLY hope InBev does not buy AB. AB is the only remaining American owned brewing company, and to sell to a Belgian company would be wrong, but Busch Entertainment Corporation does a GREAT job with parks, and it would be a shame to see that go away with a change in management or ownership. :(

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Yes, the bid is for all of Anheuser Busch, including the theme parks, but the speculation based on InBev's previous purchases would be they would sell of any non-core assets like BEC. Of course, the same thing was said about GE selling off Universal's theme parks when they bought it, but they seem to have chnaged their mind and embraced their parks instead. But on the flip side, Viacom sold of the Paramount Parks deciding they weren't a core asset, and Time Warner sold off Six Flags for the same reason.

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I think the unsettling thing for me in this would the what was mentioned a while ago in another American Brewery being sold off to a European company. I think the theme parks would be gobbled up pretty quickly as they are known to do well so that woudln't be a problem, the hope would have to be there though that a good company took it over and kept running it the same way.

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What if the developer/partner Nakheel bought up the US parks and moved everything to Dubai to save on hardware !!

 

Nah, it won't happen.... but someone pick GAcoaster up off the floor! :P

 

Disney purchasing Busch is definitely a possibility especially since they are already getting into building smaller destination resorts like the one in Hawaii. If it happend they would own Florida.

 

detail_hawaiianresortrendering.jpg

 

 

 

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Yes, the bid is for all of Anheuser Busch, including the theme parks, but the speculation based on InBev's previous purchases would be they would sell of any non-core assets like BEC. Of course, the same thing was said about GE selling off Universal's theme parks when they bought it, but they seem to have chnaged their mind and embraced their parks instead. But on the flip side, Viacom sold of the Paramount Parks deciding they weren't a core asset, and Time Warner sold off Six Flags for the same reason.

 

Time Warner's MASSIVE debt forced a 51% stake sale to Boston Ventures in 1993 for $200M and assumption of $800M of TWX debt. Losing a $400M+ lawsuit (which was upheld at all levels) to the Six Flags over Georgia Limited Partnership, and Turner Broadcasting System acquisition ultimately left them with little choice but to sell the rest. Don't forget, Premier Parks almost took the operating contract for the Six Flags over Texas Limited Partnership (which would have greatly impacted Six Flags Theme Parks' value), before acquiring the company outright in 1998 for $1.9B (deal closing April 1, 1998). Ultimately, TWX paid $115M for SFTP (plus debt which TWX retired), infused $150M in operating capital, sold a 51% stake for $1B (tax free on the $800M debt assumption), took a $400M hit (stupidity), and raked another $1.9B in the end. SFTP was a financially profitable venture. :)

Edited by Thunderbolt
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From Dow Jones:

 

Anheuser-Busch Theme Parks Are Possible Merger Casualty

Dow Jones

June 12, 2008: 04:43 PM EST

 

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- For years Anheuser-Busch Co.'s (BUD) theme parks have been a good venue for marketing its Budweiser beer to millions of parched customers.

 

Belgian-based InBev NV (INB.BT) announced Thursday it plans to buy Anheuser- Busch for $47 billion, creating the first global beer company. The merger would combine InBev's sales in Western Europe, Latin America and Canada with Anheuser's dominant position in the U.S. market.

 

Anheuser's amusement parks, including popular SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks, could be sold if InBev's bid is successful. In a conference call Thursday, InBev said it may sell some of Anheuser's non-core assets.

 

The theme parks aren't seen as a natural fit for Anheuser. But they're profitable and possibly attractive to private-equity players or other large entertainment companies, experts say.

 

"The parks perform quite well," said Christian Aaen, a principal at Economics Research Associates. He said a key trend in the theme-park business is the increasing role of private-equity groups, including Blackstone Group's (BX) 2005 acquisitions of European amusement park operator Merlin Entertainments and Legoland Parks.

 

Some analysts say that Anheuser's entertainment business, which operates about 10 theme parks, is hard to value. That business is a very small part of the company's overall profits and Anheuser has used it more as a way of promoting its image and brands.

 

InBev is known for keeping a tight rein on costs and running a lean business and so it could decide to sell the entertainment division, which isn't a part of the core beer operations.

 

Their theme parks serviced 22.3 million visitors in 2007, according to Economics Research Associates. And, the entertainment segment last year had gross sales of $1.3 billion, net income of $162.9 million. According to the company's annual report, the business contributed to 8% of net sales and 6% of net income in 2007.

 

Anheuser says it's the second-largest theme park operator in the U.S. and competes with Walt Disney Co. (DIS), Six Flags Inc. (SIX), Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. (FUN), and Universal Studios parks owned by General Electric Co. (GE)

 

In February, Dubai-based property developer Nakheel inked an agreement with Busch Entertainment to develop the Worlds of Discovery theme park on a project being constructed off the emirate's coast.

 

Although it's unclear exactly which of Anheuser's competitors might be interested in buying its theme parks if they're sold, some operators probably won't be on the short list.

 

"Six Flags is not a position to acquire anything right now. They are balance- sheet challenged and very, very highly levered," said David Miller, an analyst at SMH Capital.

 

Meanwhile, Cedar Fair is seen having its hands full after its acquisition of Paramount Parks in 2006 from CBS Corp. (CBS).

 

Some analysts say Anheuser's theme parks could even survive a merger given they generate healthy profits and good advertising for its products.

 

"If you go to any of their theme parks, there is always an Anheuser-Busch facility to go and drink their beers and learn about their brewery process," said B. Craig Hutson, an analyst at Gimme Credit. He said there is no evidence this drives incremental sales and lacks obvious synergies with its brewery operations.

 

"But, it helps create good will. I think they (would) be inclined to keep that business," he said.

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From DailyPress.com:

 

Busch parks may have few takers

If InBev buys Anheuser-Busch, it might struggle to sell two area theme parks and other sites.

After movie company Paramount Pictures said in January 2006 that theme parks didn't fit its core business, it sold all five of its parks — including Kings Dominion outside Richmond — six months later to Cedar Fair Entertainment Co.

 

The parks had been used to promote Paramount films and television shows for 13 years, but those ties started disintegrating after the sale. "The Italian Job: Turbo Coaster" became the "Back Lot Stunt Coaster." "Tomb Raider: The Ride" became "The Crypt."

 

Now Belgium brewer InBev is considering buying Anheuser-Busch Cos. and selling off its noncore assets — likely the 10 Busch theme parks — to help finance the proposed acquisition. Any sale could mean big changes at the area's Busch Gardens Europe and Water Country USA, as well as the brewer's other parks — considered some of the industry's best.

 

But there's one slight problem with any plan to sell: There might be no buyers right now — at least at a worthwhile sales price.

 

"They might not be able to sell the parks," said John Gerner, managing director of Leisure Business Advisers LLC in Richmond, "or if they sell quickly in a liquidation situation, they're going to get less than market value. There is a price to be paid by rushing this."

 

Potential buyers of Busch are struggling, and a lack of bidders could drive down the cost when consumer spending is slow. Any sale will also pose a risk that the Busch parks — steadily profitable because of the care and investment of their parent — will lose their Busch branding or quality amid a push for short-term profits.

 

Much of the value of Busch Gardens Europe, Water Country USA and the eight other Busch parks has come from a parent that has thought long-term and regularly reinvested. Industry watchers are concerned what might happen to that dynamic if InBev buys Anheuser-Busch — or if another company buys the whole chain.

 

"There has been a good symbiotic relationship between the two companies, and both have benefited," Gerner said. He has helped evaluate the price of theme parks worldwide and worked as an executive at the brewer's two Busch Gardens parks decades ago.

 

Neither InBev nor Busch has commented on the attempt by InBev to buy America's largest brewer. InBev has said only that it would sell off noncore assets to finance the deal. Analysts have said that likely includes the parks and a packaging business. Kingsmill Resort is separate from the parks subsidiary but might also be considered noncore.

 

Busch might yet fend off a takeover by combining with Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, which would create a combined company too large for InBev to acquire. But if InBev wins and wants to sell the parks, it might end up with a less-than-premium price.

 

Competition Interest

There are two publicly traded theme park companies that would be considered candidates to buy Busch Entertainment: Six Flags and Cedar Fair. The three other potential buyers are part of large corporations: Walt Disney, General Electric's Universal Studios and Blackstone Group's Merlin Entertainments Group.

 

Ohio-based Cedar Fair paid $1.24 billion for the Paramount theme parks, including Kings Dominion, in 2006. Cedar Fair owns 11 amusement parks, seven water parks and five hotels. Its signature park is Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

 

Six Flags has been struggling with a heavy debt burden. The company's shares trade for less than $2, and it just did a big debt refinancing to try to clean up a troubled balance sheet. Cedar Fair still has the debt and challenge of integrating the Paramount parks.

 

"Neither of the publicly traded commuter theme park players are in a position to buy anything," said David Miller, an analyst at SMH Capital.

 

Disney and Universal don't typically try to grow by purchasing other companies, and they focus on destination resorts, rather than parks that are day trips, Miller said.

 

Disney has been rumored to be interested in Six Flags before, and it was never true because it doesn't fit the business, he said.

 

An additional issue with buying Busch is that its three properties in Orlando, Fla., compete for customers with Disney and Universal, so buying Busch could cannibalize their own businesses.

 

That might leave some unusual candidates — or none at all — as the only bidders left standing. Perhaps the most likely is The Blackstone Group, the private equity firm that's the theme park leader in Europe and has a few American parks. Other private equity firms could be interested, but getting bank financing is still very difficult.

 

A good Buy for Dubai?

Some analysts think that a bid might even emerge from Dubai, the Middle Eastern emirate that has inked a big deal with Busch.

 

Busch announced in February plans to add four of its theme parks — Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove — in a partnership with the Dubai development firm Nakheel in 2012.

 

Busch is licensing the parks and will operate them for Nakheel on the Palm Jebel Ali, a palm-shaped man-made island. Dubai is running out of oil, and it's using its wealth to lay the foundations to become a big tourism hub that attracts a wide international base of visitors.

 

Gerner has worked in the Middle East. He said that countries there were generally more interested in worldwide name recognition or licensing theme park brands but that Dubai couldn't be ruled out. The investment would likely be more about learning how to cater to tourists than other buyers looking to squeeze out higher profits, he said. "If I was managing the Busch side of the sale, I would be intrigued by the possibility of a Dubai buyer," Gerner said.

 

The financial performance from the Busch parks over the past five years has been like clockwork. The profit margin for the entertainment division is higher than Busch's other lines of business. Revenues have grown at almost 8 percent to 9 percent for the past five years, with 12 percent profit margins. "Everyone thinks quite highly of the parks and the management of the parks," Gerner said. "The Busch chain is as stable as any theme park in the industry."

 

In 2007, Busch Entertainment accounted for 8 percent of the revenue and 6 percent of the profit for the parent company. The subsidiary has grown sales in the 8 percent range for years, growing 2007 sales by $94 million. Profits have also been consistently increasing.

 

Belgian analyst Kris Kippers, who covers InBev for Petercam SA, said Busch Entertainment was worth about $2.9 billion. Michael Branca, an analyst at Lehman Bros., puts the figure closer to $2.58 billion. The valuations for theme parks were higher in the late 1990s as Cedar Fair and Six Flags grew. "It was these two companies driving the value of those sales," Gerner said. "Without these two companies as potential bidders, your potential asking price comes into question."

 

Value Beyond Numbers

InBev might consider theme parks to be a noncore part of Busch that can be sold to generate cash to grow the beer business, but the parks have always been part of the Busch marketing machine. Any buyer would likely have to pay a royalty fee to retain the Busch name and icons like the Clydesdale horses. That could make the parks less profitable, but failing to do so might also diminish the parks' appeal. The elimination of the vestiges of Paramount irked some of the parks' enthusiasts, who complained that the rides lost some of their appeal when they were re-themed.

 

Analogous to what Paramount did with its parks, Busch uses them as a tool to help cement its lead in the marketing-heavy beer industry. Busch brands of beer are sold throughout the parks. It has used the parks as part of its campaigns against its competitors — ironically, about their foreign ownership.

 

The financial returns have also come as a result of continual investment in new attractions — and especially in maintenance and upkeep. An overly cost-conscious owner with an eye toward the short term might want to cut costs in these areas to get a higher return. "There's some question whether they would keep up with that," Gerner said. "That becomes a factor in all of this: Would the parks be as popular if they are no longer associated with a company that is known to do things in a quality way?"

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This whole situation has arisen extremely fast, especially now that I believe it sounds like Busch is going to sit down with InBev and look into the possible merger. The only thing I see stopping this right now would probbaly be the Mexican brewer deal that they keep talking about. I'm really hoping that this whole deal does not go through as I am tired of any American made product ending up under European or Asian ownership nowadays.

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UPDATE From Reuters:

 

Anheuser to reject InBev offer, restructure: report

 

Wed Jun 25, 7:56 PM ET

 

Anheuser-Busch Co (BUD.N) is expected to reject InBev NV's (INTB.BR) unsolicited $46.3 billion offer, saying it undervalues the company, and announce its own restructuring plan, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

 

Anheuser-Busch could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

The U.S. brewer is expected to reject InBev's offer as too low. Anheuser-Busch will soon outline its own restructuring that would include the sale of nonessential assets such its theme parks in an effort to boost its stock price, the newspaper reported in its online edition.

 

The rejection will unlikely deter InBev, which is prepared to take its bid directly to Anheuser-Busch shareholders through a tender offer, the newspaper said. InBev has yet to decide whether to pursue such a course, however.

 

Anheuser-Busch has few takeover defenses to thwart a hostile offer.

 

So, even if InBev doesn't buy A-B, they may still end up selling off BEC to keep stockholders happy... :(

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From Reuters:

 

Anheuser says won't sell parks, packaging units

Fri Jun 27, 2008 9:47am EDT

 

CHICAGO, June 27 (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc (BUD.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) does not plan to sell its packaging business or its SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks, the company's chief executive said on Friday.

 

"A sale after tax is not of benefit to our shareholders," August Busch IV, chief executive of the largest U.S. beer maker, said, noting that the company has taken a thorough look at whether to sell the businesses.

 

The comments came in a conference call in which Anheuser-Busch executives detailed their cost-savings plan and explained the decision to reject InBev NV's (INTB.BR: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) $46.3 billion bid. (Reporting by Brad Dorfman; editing by Derek Caney)

 

:goodvibes: YAY! Now we just have to hope InBev doesn't get to buy them out...

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Awesome well that is a good development so far. I think InBev should just back off at this point, wait and see if the restructuring does work out for AB and if not then hey give it another go. But if they keep up the pressure, I will be dissapointed. I can honestly say the only InBev selection that I have tried is Labatt which is ok, but I love anything AB brews and I'd like to keep the two seperate.

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There have been a lot of new Anheuser Busch commercials lately which refer to the history and American heritage of AB. Smart move especially if they want to retain the support of stockholders and make it seem un-American to support an InBev takeover. Unfortunately, those with the most say in the matter (the major stock holders and investment firms) usually consider their quick profits and cash turnaround long before loyalty and patriotism.

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^ You know I noticed that today actually. There was a commercial on about the history of the American Brewry and I felt as though the commercial was going to end with one of those make me feel bad about letting this happen type of messages.

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Well, it looks like it has happened, Anheuser-Busch is now owned by InBev. :unsure:

 

It could be a few weeks or months before we know what if anything will happen to the theme park division. Being they are bringing some of the AB management onto the new company board and they seem to be taking on the name of "Anheuser-Busch InBev", there may be some hope they'll keep the BEC division as a great marketing tool.

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Here's a longer article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080714/ap_on_...ser_busch_inbev

 

What worries me is this:

It will, however, sell off "noncore assets" from both companies to raise some $7 billion to finance the deal.
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Source: AP

Can InBev sell Anheuser-Busch theme parks?

Tuesday July 15, 5:39 pm ET

By Christopher Leonard, AP Business Writer

InBev may try to sell Anheuser-Busch theme parks, but will there be buyers?

 

 

ST. LOUIS -- When Anheuser-Busch executives announced a cost-cutting plan in June, they surprised analysts by not proposing to sell the company's amusement parks and entertainment holdings. Belgian brewer InBev is likely to be less sentimental.

 

Having agreed to buy the largest U.S. brewer for $52 billion, the "non-core assets" like Busch Gardens and SeaWorld seem likely to go on the market. InBev SA is known for acquiring new companies and aggressively slashing costs to pump up its bottom line. Chief Executive Carlos Brito -- who spent Tuesday touring Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. headquarters in St. Louis and addressing employees -- said he is already looking for assets to unload, with the goal of saving $1.5 billion annually by 2011.

 

But even if InBev decides to spin off the theme park divisions, it's not clear who would buy them. A troubled financial sector could make it hard to line up billions of dollars to finance the deal, and many big U.S. theme park operators are cutting costs amid rising fuel prices and a sluggish economy.

 

"I think if there were to be a buyer for the parks, it might come from overseas. There are some deep-pocketed players overseas," said Paul Ruben, North American editor for the England-based Park World Trade Magazine. He estimated Anheuser-Busch's entertainment division would fetch between $4 billion and $5 billion if sold.

 

InBev has not yet said what parts of Anheuser-Busch it considers non-core. Anheuser-Busch's operations are broad, including a packaging division, grain elevators and factories that make bottles and cans.

 

But there is a clear incentive to sell the 10 theme parks operated by the Busch Entertainment Corp. division, which have little do with brewing beer and could fetch a high price.

 

"I would say in all likelihood, the theme parks are the No. 1 thing to go. The only question is: 'Is it now, or later?'" said financial analyst Juli Niemann of Smith Moore & Co. in St. Louis. "It's not (InBev's) business. They do one thing and one thing well. They brew."

 

Likely suitors might include Merlin Entertainment Group, based in England, or Spain-based Parques Reunidos, Ruben said.

 

In bidding, those companies would have an advantage InBev enjoyed when lining up the cash to buy the whole company. A weakened dollar means American-based assets are discounted against foreign currencies like the euro and the pound.

 

High fuel prices tend to push some consumers to cut back on visits to destination parks like Disney World, Ruben said. But regional theme parks that draw visitors from nearby -- a category that includes all the theme parks owned by Anheuser-Busch -- are doing well this summer, he said.

 

"If times are tough, people won't take a longer vacation. But a day at the theme park can be done on one tank of gas and in one day," he said. "Historically, theme parks have weathered the recession without so much as a blip."

 

While the parks might be a profitable investment, big U.S. theme park companies don't appear to be in a buying mood. Six Flags Inc. lost $149.9 million during the first quarter of this year. Instead of expanding, the company is looking to streamline its current operations.

 

Sandusky, Ohio-based Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. paid $1.24 billion nearly two years ago to buy five parks from Paramount Parks Inc. While Chief Executive Richard Kinzel said he didn't expect a dropoff in attendance at parks this summer, the company might be hesitant to take on another round of debt, Ruben said.

 

Walt Disney Co., meanwhile, tends to invest on its own branded parks and destination attractions, he said.

 

Anheuser-Busch's theme park employees aren't the only ones uncertain about their future. Unionized workers at the company's breweries have asked to meet with Brito to discuss job security. The union said in a statement it is wary of Brito's commitment to keep all the breweries up and running.

 

"We know that Carlos Brito, InBev's chairman, has a reputation as a cost-slasher, and always at the expense of workers," Jack Cipriani, director of the Teamsters Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference, said in a statement. The union represents more than 7,000 Anheuser-Busch employees in the United States and Canada.

 

Anheuser-Busch spokeswoman Brenda Williams said Brito was not available to comment Tuesday on potential job cuts or spinning off the theme park division.

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The latest word I've heard around the Internet is that the Budweiser and other AB logos are already being removed from the parks...but that's not necessarily bad news. The rumor is that the Busch Family will be taking over the theme park division. It may have been something negotiated with InBev, and if this is true and they do take over BEC, it would be the best possible scenario since they will keep the parks running the way they have been running them. I know some of the family members have been active with the parks and the animal conservation programs, so it seems like a natural thing for them to take all the money they just made selling the rest of their shares to InBev and take over BEC as the profitable business measure that will continue the Busch family name and legacy.

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I hope you heard right. I think this is an option that none of us ever really thought of during the specualtive period between the initial unsolicited bid and the actual sale agreement. I would like to see the family take over, and really go head on with the parks. Imagine what they could do where that much more of their attention is turned to the parks instead of it being a minor player in the family business as I'm sure it probably seemed while running all of AB. This move I think would get a lot of people excited for sure :)

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The Busch Entertainment Parks are some of the best operated properties. Hopefully, the Busch Family can acquire the parks and keep them privately owned. I think we all agree on this one.

 

BEC would also be a great parent for Great Adventure come Six Flag's inevitable bankruptcy (creditor ordered Chapter 7).

Edited by Thunderbolt
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Hmmm...now word is that Blackstone may be interested:

 

From Motley Fool:

 

Also, it was reported that private equity firm Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX) is interested in a hookup with Anheuser-Busch's (NYSE: BUD) theme parks. Blackstone already owns stakes in iconic attractions like Universal Orlando, LEGOLAND, and England's Alton Towers.

 

BEC parks would actually be a good fit in that mix of parks, but I'd rather see the Busch Family take them on. Who knows, it could end up in a partnership (like Universal) with the Busch Family or InBev.

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The Busch Entertainment Parks are some of the best operated properties. Hopefully, the Busch Family can acquire the parks and keep them privately owned. I think we all agree on this one.

 

BEC would also be a great parent for Great Adventure come Six Flag's inevitable bankruptcy (creditor ordered Chapter 7).

 

 

I would LOVE to see BEC run Great Adventure. those people know how to run a park. I don't think they would be interested, though. It scares me to think of someone buying those parks. They are the best-run, best-themed parks in the country. I was a dancer at Busch Williamsburg and I go to Busch Tampa every week. I can't imagine them being owned by a foreign company. being American owned has always been a source of pride for them. It really doesn't matter that much to be though who owns them as long as they continue the quality they have produced over the years.

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