Blackstone buys InBev parks for $2.7B

The Blackstone Group plans to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev’s U.S. theme parks for up to $2.7 billion, expanding the private equity firm’s entertainment portfolio. Anheuser-Busch InBev said it expected the deal to close in the first half of 2010.

The sale was widely expected as Anheuser-Busch InBev focuses on paying off $45 billion in loans from the $52 billion merger last year that made it the world’s largest beer maker.

After Belgium’s InBev took over U.S. rival Anheuser-Busch, it set a target to raise $7 billion from divestments.

The theme park deal, one of the largest private equity transactions this year, would push it to within about $500 million of that target.

Blackstone will acquire Busch Entertainment Corp., which the brewer said was the second-largest theme park operator nationwide.

That will add 10 parks—including three SeaWorlds and two Busch Gardens—to Blackstone’s existing amusement assets, such as the Madame Tussauds Wax Museums, Legoland and the London Eye ferris wheel.

Private equity firms have been largely unable to strike deals of scale since the credit crisis virtually shut off access to financing for leveraged deals, but have of late been able to access limited amounts of debt for deals.

Blackstone will use senior secured credit facilities and mezzanine debt to finance its purchase. The senior credit facilities are being provided by BofA Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank Securities, Goldman Sachs Loan Partners and Mizuho Corporate Bank. —Reuters