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Shock for SeaWorld as PETA disrupts otherwise successful IPO

SeaWorld Orlando killer whales

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. launched a successful IPO on April 19, 2013, although the firm faces an interesting future after animals right group PETA bought up some of the shares on offer.

The Initial Public Offering saw SeaWorld shares jump by $6.52 on the opening day of trading, hitting a price of $33.52. Although this has since fallen slightly, the marine life park and theme park operator still raised more than $700 million through the sale of 26 million shares. This was more than SeaWorld's owner, private equity firm Blackstone Group, had originally aimed for.

Blackstone has retained a majority stake in SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., but has reportedly been joined by an investor that promises to be somewhat disrutive. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has long rallied against SeaWorld holding killer whales in captivity, and claims to have purchased enough shares to give it a seat at annual meetings and to submit shareholder resolutions.

While PETA is unlikely to be able to force SeaWorld to change its strategy relating to killer whales and other marine life, the move marks something of a public relations coup. It claims that its "first order of business" is to "free" the captive orcas from SeaWorld's parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. also runs the Busch Gardens theme parks in Tampa Bay and Williamsburg.

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