Record revenues at Merlin Entertainments, owner of Legoland, Madame Tussauds, Thorpe Park and Dungeons attractions, are paving the way for a flotation of the company, according to City analysts.
Legoland in Windsor recently launched its new conference centre on the back of major investment, and corporate events are playing an ever bigger role in the company-wide business in general, as group revenues broke through the £1bn barrier for the first time.
A decision on listing, probably in New York or London, is likely towards the end of the third quarter.
Europe’s biggest theme park operator is valued at around £3bn, with EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) increasing 16.9 per cent to £346m following the opening of seven new venues and acquisition of another nine. Operating profits were also up 16.5 per cent to £258m in the year to 29 December 2012.
Merlin is backed by private equity giants Blackstone and CVC and Chief Executive Nick Varney said: “We have always said that we would look to 2013 to 2014 as the next possible window for floating Merlin.”
British like-for-like sales had been broadly flat, however, noted Varney, who said he was optimistic for more input from the company’s European parks in the year ahead, “although Southern Europe isn’t going to improve anytime soon,” he added.
Merlin had been due to float three years ago, but plans were put on hold due to market volatility.
Merlin now attracts 54m visitors a year to its venues.
Varney acknowledged that the group was in talks with the Japanese owner of County Hall, London, about the possibility of developing a new attraction there.
To celebrate its 10th Birthday this summer, the Alton Towers Resort is offering every delegate to its Conference Centre who attends a residential event throughout June 2013 a special birthday treat (when a minimum of 150 bedrooms are booked). Each delegate will receive a ticket to Alton Towers Theme Park and £10 of Magic Money, which can be spent at any retail or catering outlet within The Resort.
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