BUSINESS bosses behind Alton Towers have revealed plans to raise £200 million through the London stock market.
Merlin Entertainments, which is also the theme park operator behind the London Eye, Madame Tussauds and Legoland, has outlined the plans which would see a fifth of the company floated on the market.
The initial public offering values the private equity-owned business, which operates 99 attractions in 22 countries, at £3 billion.
Merlin Entertainments saw its attractions last year attract more than 54 million visitors, generating total revenue £1,074.3 million and underlying Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization of £346 million.
It is Europe’s leading visitor attraction operator and the second largest globally after Walt Disney.
Chief executive Nick Varney said buoyant demand for Royal Mail’s soaring shares, particularly among retail investors, ‘had inspired confidence’.
He 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.
“We have successfully followed a clear and proven strategy to build a high growth international family entertainment business, built on strong brands and a portfolio of attractions balanced by geographies, products and demographics.
“Our very strong trading performance so far this year, with revenues of more than 11 per cent ahead of 2012, is a further reflection on this.
“Delivering memorable experiences to our millions of visitors is our passion and we see a world of opportunity ahead of us.
“Our experienced team has the ability and ambition to deliver our plans as we develop our existing business and roll out Merlin’s unique portfolio of leisure brands internationally.
“The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) will provide Merlin with the platform for our next stage of development and allow us to plan for the long term.
“As such we are very excited about this next chapter of our story and look forward to creating value for our shareholders and more magic for our customers.”
Small investors can buy into Merlin’s float with a minimum £1,000 investment — a third more than the minimum spend on Royal Mail stock — but Varney said: “For a lot of Londoners, it’s a chance to own a bit of the London Eye and Legoland.”
Merlin’s current backers – private equity firms Blackstone and CVC – are to sell some of their stake in the IPO.
But Kirkbi, the Danish family-owned firm which owns the Legoland and Lego trademarks and three-quarters of the Lego Group, said it intends to retain a significant shareholding following the flotation.
Mr Varney said the £200 million would be used to pay down debt and expand in Asia, and added: “This is about also settling the long-term ownership and structure of Merlin without being bought and sold every three to five years.”
The company has identified 100 possible new sites for attractions such as Sea Life, Madame Tussauds and other Eye wheels around the world.
It is aiming to open a new Legoland park every three years, in countries such as Japan and South Korea.
Retail investors will receive a 30 per cent discount on an annual Merlin pass to all of its attractions.