Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Alton Towers' owner plans flotation

Merlin Entertainments, the company behind attractions including Alton Towers, has announced plans to float on the London stock market

The company behind attractions including the London Eye, Madame Tussauds and Alton Towers has announced plans to float on the London stock market.

Private equity-owned Merlin Entertainments, which operates 99 attractions in 22 countries and received more than 54 million visitors in 2012, is believed to be worth as much as £3 billion.

It said the public offer of shares will enable it to pay down debt and plan for the next stage of its development.

The company generated revenues of more than £1 billion last year and is Europe's leading visitor attraction operator and the second largest globally after Walt Disney. Other sites include Legoland Parks, Chessington World of Adventures and Warwick Castle.

Private equity firms Blackstone and CVC will sell a significant chunk of their shares, although Kirkbi, the Danish family-owned investment company which owns the Lego and Legoland trademarks and 75% of the Lego Group, said it intends to retain a significant shareholding following the flotation.

It is expected that Merlin will raise around £200 million in proceeds from the flotation, which will be open to retail investors. The minimum application size will be £1,000 and shareholders will be entitled to a 30% discount on either two adult Merlin Annual Passes or one family Merlin Annual Pass.

The group said it had continued to trade well in the year to date, with revenues up 11% to £888.7 million in the 35 weeks to the end of August, including growth of 7.1% when stripping out investment in new attractions.

Chief executive Nick Varney said: " Merlin Entertainments comes to the market with a consistent record of strong growth in both revenues and profits and bright prospects for the future."

Merlin said the issue of shares will help it in " retaining and incentivising" employees.

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