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Burrowes sells more Dolphin Cove shares

Published:Friday | January 22, 2016 | 1:00 AMCamilo Thame
Stafford Burrowes, chairman and CEO of Dolphin Cove Limited.

Stafford Burrowes sold another US$4.7 million ($570 million) in shares in Dolphin Cove as some minority shareholders held out on offering up their shares to Mexico-based World of Dolphins.

This made for a hefty payday for the CEO, who raked in a total of US$35 million ($4.2 billion) from selling shares over the last two months, leaving him and his connected parties with an 11.8 per cent stake in the local company a stake valued at $723 million based on the last trading price of $15.60.

Five years ago, when the company listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), all 80 per cent of the shares held by the Burrowes after the initial public offering were valued at $937 million,

Burrowes also acquired a two per cent partnership interest in World of Dolphins' ultimate parent, Dolphin Capital, for US$5.2 million, with an option to purchase a further 0.5 per cent stake, while the minority holdouts in Dolphin Cove retain nine per cent shareholdings.

They apparently see more room for the local attraction to grow. Its revenue growth has been slowing down since 2011 the first full year of the company's Negril operations. Sales grew by 28 per cent in US dollar terms in 2011, then by 12 per cent in 2012, followed by three per cent annual growth over the following two years. For the first nine months of 2015, revenue declined by a marginal 0.2 per cent from year-earlier levels.

Profit also fell by 1.5 per cent from year-earlier levels during the nine months to September 2015, while the company started paying income tax again following a five-year tax break. Over the next five years, its income will be subject to a 12.5 per cent tax rate.

This winter season should inform Dolphin Cove's management if its most recent addition a dedicated facility at the 730-room Moon Palace Jamaica Grande Hotel located in Ocho Rios was a good bet, and if rolling out marine parks across large hotels in Jamaica is a good channel for growth.

Expansion into the Caribbean is also still on the table. The Jamaican company already acquired land in St Lucia and Turks and Caicos for the development of new parks.

This would fit neatly into the new majority owner's mode of operations, given that it has been aggressively expanding over the last five years.

Dolphin Discovery, under which the company trades, established eight marine parks, six of them in Mexico, during the 16 years to 2010. Since then, it acquired and set up another nine three in the Caribbean, one in the United States, and one in Italy before buying Dolphin Cove Cayman from Burrowes in a separate transaction and the majority stake in the Jamaican company.

Last year's acquisition of the park located in Florida added over 150,000 visitors to Dolphin Discovery's more than one million guest it received annually up to that point, while the addition of the location in Rome, which operates during the summer months, should bring in another 500,000 each year.

Guest count for the Dolphin Cove Cayman and for the four Jamaican parks haven't been publicly disclosed, but revenue from dolphin attractions separate from restaurants and shops suggest the Jamaican parks receive less than 200,000 visitors annually.

camilo.thame@gleanerjm.com