SeaWorld stock sinks 30% on poor attendance and sales

Shares of SeaWorld took a deep dive in trading today after the entertainment company posted a big miss in its latest quarter, blaming the media for casting negative attention on its parks' treatment of animals and deterring people from visiting.

Attendance at aquatic theme parks is down 4.3% in 2014

SeaWorld says negative media attention has led to disappointing sales and attendance in the second quarter

Shares of SeaWorld took a deep dive in trading today after the entertainment company posted a big miss in its latest quarter, blaming the media for casting negative attention on its parks' treatment of animals and deterring people from visiting.

While attendance rose a slight 0.3 per cent in the second quarter versus last year, attendance at its parks is still down 4.3 per cent since January.

As well, deep discount offers to lure customers further muddied the waters. The company was forced to cut its annual outlook and, instead of a positive sales outcome, now expects sales to fall six to seven per cent in 2014.

SeaWorld's stock sunk 32 per cent Wednesday to a record low of $18.90 per share.

Bad publicity makes a splash

"The company believes attendance in the quarter was impacted by demand pressures related to recent media attention surrounding proposed legislation in the state of California," the earnings release stated.

That bill would force SeaWorld San Diego to stop using killer whales in live performances and release them to the wild. Its on hold until further study is completed.

According to analyst Barton Crockett of FBR capital, SeaWorld's results "featured the company's first acknowledgement of attendance pressures tied to animal activism."

The company's bottom line and reputation have suffered significantly since the 2013 release of the documentary BlackFish, which exposed alleged abuses of Orca whales at its aquatic theme parks and the dangers posed to SeaWorld trainers.

SeaWorld subsequently launched a campaign to deny those claims, and continues to defend its animal practices.

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