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'No plans' to open SeaWorld park in China, says operator

SeaWorld has quashed rumours of a planned expansion into China, with the operator saying it has "no plans" to open a SeaWorld park in the country.

There has been talk of SeaWorld moving into the Chinese market for some time, with Chinese investors Zhonghong Zhuoye Group (ZZG) taking up a majority stake in the operator in March last year.

The deal, which was worth CN¥3bn (US$448.5m, €386m, £342m), included an agreement that SeaWorld would exclusively advise Zhonghong Group on the design and development of future themed entertainment destinations, including theme parks, waterparks and FECs, in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Speaking later that year, the now former SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said that plans were still "moving forward in China", with a three-year study to "figure out what is our priority" in the region.

In February this year, SeaWorld’s interim executive chair, Yoshikazu Maruyama, said that ZZG sees "the huge potential of the opportunity with the SeaWorld brand in China in the future", though a new statement from SeaWorld seems to put a damper on that statement.

Speaking to Attractions Management, a representative for SeaWorld said that the operator was not planning to open a park in China any time in the near future.

"We have no plans to open a SeaWorld park in China and, accordingly, have not made any announcements to that effect," said the statement.

China's government has been trying to rein in risky lending and debt in its property sector, including new regulations for theme parks and a tightening of the reins for property giant Wanda.

Outside of its SeaWorld interest, in April, ZZG disclosed in a regulatory filing that it had defaulted on more than CN¥1.1bn (US$161m, €139m, £123m) in borrowings, adding to overdue debt that totalled CN¥2.27bn (US$333m, €286m, £254m). ZZG is currently trying to reach a deal with the Shenzhen-based Kaisa Group over the CN¥1.4bn (US$205m, €176m, £157m) sale of the shares in its Ruyi Island Project in Hainan, which would offer some relief to its debt burden. As part of increased scrutinies over such deals, Chinese authorities have asked for more information regarding the intended use of proceeds from the equity sale and the development status of the project, which is being built at a cost of CN¥12.9bn (US$1.89bn, €1.62bn, £1.44bn) and is due to open in 2019. ZZG had previously referenced 'SeaWorld Haikou' – an indoor family entertainment centre planned for the island – though with the planned sale and statement from the operator, that project appears to be dead in the water.

SeaWorld  China  Zhonghong Zhuoye Group  ZZG  Joel Manby  Yoshikazu Maruyama  Kaisa Group  Ruyi Island  Hainan 
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SeaWorld has quashed rumours of a planned expansion into China, with the operator saying it has "no plans" to open a SeaWorld park in the country. There has been talk of SeaWorld moving into the Chinese market for some time, with Chinese investors Zhonghong Zhuoye Group (ZZG) taking up a majority stake in the operator in March last year. The deal, which was worth CN¥3bn (US$448.5m, €386m, £342m), included an
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