NEW YORK — Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment, which have been cut in half since coming under scrutiny over the killer whales it holds in captivity, soared 12 percent before the opening bell on news of a big investment from China.
The long-battered stock closed Friday at $18.13 a share, up almost 5 percent.
The Orlando company, which is also the parent of Busch Gardens in Tampa, announced that Zhonghong Zhuoye Group Co., real estate holding company, has acquired a 21 percent stake from the private asset management firm Blackstone Group at $23 per share.
SeaWorld's board will increase to 11 members with the addition of Yoshikazu Maruyama, Zhonghong's president of American operations.
Attendance at parks owned by SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. has suffered since the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," which suggested that its treatment of killer whales may have led to the deaths of trainers. It said last year that it would not breed killer whales and stop using them in shows.
SeaWorld Entertainment said attendance at its Florida parks is down by 547,000 visitors in 2016. New rides and attractions — including Mako at the Orlando park and Cobra's Curse at Tampa's Busch Gardens — have recently helped boost business.
SeaWorld earlier this year named Stewart Clark as the new president to run Busch Gardens and Adventure Island in Tampa. His predecessor, Jim Dean, left Tampa after six years to become park president of SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove in Orlando.