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Blackstone to pay $2.7bn for theme park operator

The firm will use $1bn in equity in to purchase Busch Entertainment's 10 US theme parks, including Sesame Place, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.

The Blackstone Group has agreed to acquire Busch Entertainment from Anheuser-Busch InBev for $2.7 billion, using $1 billion of equity in the deal.

The transaction will consist of a cash payment of $2.3 billion on the deal’s closing, and a right to participate in Blackstone’s return on its initial investment capped at $400 million, the firm said in a statement.

Along with $1 billion in equity, the deal includes a $950 million term loan, $450 million mezzanine financing and a $100 million revolving credit facility. The senior debt will be provided by Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Mizuho Corporate Bank. The mezzanine financing is being provided by Goldman Sachs Mezzanine Partners and funds managed by GSO Capital Partners.

The investment is coming out of Blackstone’s fifth buyout fund, which is in fundraising targeting $10 billion to $15 billion, and had collected $8 billion as of February.

Busch Entertainment runs 10 amusement parks in the US, including SeaWorld and Busch Gardens chains, as well as Sesame Place in Pennsylvania.

“The sale of BEC represents another important milestone in our commitment to de-leverage the company and

Sesame
Place

will also allow us to continue on our core brewing business,” Carlos Brito, chief executive officer of Anheuser-Busch, said in a statement.

Blackstone has existing amusement park holdings, including Italy’s Gardaland, the UK’s Thorpe Park and the four Legoland amusement parks in the US and Europe, through its Merlin Entertainment Group.

Anheuser-Busch InBev has been paring down some $7 billion in assets as it pays down debt. Already, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts paid $1.8 billion to buy South Korea’s Oriental Brewery. That deal included an $800 million equity component, half of which KKR then sold to Asian private equity firm Affinity Equity Partners.

A deal has been in the works for CVC Capital Partners to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Central and Eastern European brewery assets.