Shares of SeaWorld (SEAS), which have been cut in half since the company started facing criticism over the killer whales it holds in captivity, saw a bump Friday morning on a big investment from China.
The Orlando, Florida, company announced Friday that Zhonghong Zhuoye Group Co., a real estate holding company, has acquired a 21 percent stake from Blackstone Group at $23 per share.
SeaWorld shares shot up as much as 9.6 percent, to $18.97, before the opening bell. They were at $18.29 in the morning, 6 percent above their Thursday close.
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. The company admitted last year that its employees posed as activists in order to infiltrate the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which opposes keeping animals in captivity.
SeaWorld said last year that it would not breed killer whales and would stop using them in shows.