Shares of SeaWorld were crashing on Thursday morning, falling as much as 9% after the company announced a weak outlook for the first quarter.
The troubled theme park company said in its earnings press release that it intended to give full year 2016 guidance after the first quarter, but according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel during the its earnings call the company characterised first quarter attendance as “soft.”
This is another setback for a company that has been dogged for the past few years by concerns over treatment of its signature orca whales, stemming from a CNN documentary “Blackfish” and peaking after pop singer Harry Styles of boy band One Direction called for a boycott of SeaWorld parks.
Over this time frame, the company has endured a drop in attendance, profits, and most recently a court order in California that it is no longer allowed to breed the orcas.
Additionally during the call, said the Sentinel, CEO Joe Manby admitted that company employees had posed as animal activists in order to gain access and spy on groups such as PETA.
According to the report, Manby said the board of directors had “directed management to end the practice in which certain employees posed as animal rights activists,” while saying the practice was “undertaken in connection with efforts to maintain the safety and security of employees, customers and animals in the face of credible threats.”
Last year PETA sued the company saying that SeaWorld employees had gone undercover to determine tactics the animals rights group was planning to use on the company.
The company reported a loss of $0.11 per share for the fourth quarter, missing expectations for a $0.10 loss. The company beat on revenue, generating $267.9 million compared to an estimate for revenue to come in at $267.4 million.
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