Business Notebook: SeaWorld plans stock IPO

December 28, 2012 

Looks like Shamu may soon be making a splash in the stock market. SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. on Thursday filed for an initial public offering of stock that could raise $100 million. That number is likely to change as the company’s bankers gauge interest from investors. Private equity firm Blackstone Group LP, which owns SeaWorld, will likely sell some of its stake in the deal, but will still own a majority of the voting power of the company’s shares after the IPO, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Orlando, Fla., company, known for its water shows featuring orca whales, dolphins and other animals, did not list a date for the offering. It plans to use the “SEAS” symbol.

E-books becoming more popular

The tastes of the reading public are turning digital. A Pew Internet Research Center survey released Thursday found that the percentage of Americans aged 16 and older who read an e-book grew from 16 percent in 2011 to 23 percent this year. Readers of traditional books dropped from 72 percent to 67 percent. Overall, those reading books of any kind dropped from 78 percent to 75 percent, a shift Pew called statistically insignificant. Those owning an e-book device or tablet jumped from 18 percent to 33 percent, with much of that increase coming from last year’s holiday season, when millions received e-readers as gifts. Awareness that libraries offer digital texts grew from 24 percent to 31 percent. The telephone survey of 2,252 people aged 16 and older was conducted Oct. 15-Nov. 10 with a sampling error margin of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

China cracks down on Internet users

For years, China’s net nannies turned a blind eye to a loophole in their vast online censorship apparatus. Anyone who wanted access to blocked overseas websites such as Twitter and Facebook need only download foreign software called a virtual private network to circumvent the Great Firewall. But those tools have begun to falter, frustrating tech-savvy Chinese and foreign businesspeople who now struggle to access Internet sites as innocuous as email provider Gmail.com. The tightening appears to be part of a broader campaign to rein in the Internet in China, which boasts nearly 600 million users and challenges the government’s information monopoly. State media have been running editorials about the dangers of an unregulated Internet -- rumor-mongering and misinformation. On Monday, one of China’s top governing bodies proposed requiring Internet users to register their real identities before accessing online services as a way to combat online fraud.

Mortgage rates drop to near record

The average rate on the U.S. 30-year fixed mortgage last week dipped closer to the lowest on record, a trend that is making home buying more affordable and also enabling more Americans to refinance their loans. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on a 30-year loan declined to 3.35 percent from 3.37 percent last week. That’s not far from the 3.31 percent rate of about a month ago, the lowest on records dating to 1971. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage was unchanged at 2.65 percent.

The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times contributed.

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