Merlin, owner of Madame Tussauds, eyes up float on markets
MERLIN Entertainments Group, the private-equity backed owner of Madame Tussauds and Legoland, is preparing to go public in either London or New York and has been meeting with potential investors, its chief executive has said.
The world's second largest visitor attraction operator behind Walt Disney, had revenue of over £1bn (€1.18bn) for the year to December 29, 2012, and was valued at £2.25bn in 2010 when private equity firm CVC Capital Partners bought a stake.
"We are definitely now considering our options," chief executive Nick Varney told Reuters, adding a sale would allow it to pay down debt of £1.27bn as at the end of December, and help fund expansion in the US and Asia.
The company said as part of any IPO it would consider bringing its leverage level down below three times earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation from a current multiple of 3.6 times.
Merlin, owned by the Danish investment company Kirkbi A/S that controls Lego Group, and private equity firms Blackstone Group and CVC, put off plans for a listing in 2010 due to jittery markets.
After years of subdued activity, European initial public offerings (IPO) have picked up over the last few months as improving stock markets boost investor confidence.
Last week, British insurer esure, estate agent Countrywide and wind farm investment fund Greencoat UK Wind raised a combined total of more than £1bn from selling their shares in London.
Yesterday Merlin reported a 16.5pc rise in operating profit to £258m for the year to December 29, as expansion in the US and Asian markets helped mitigate the impact of the eurozone crisis, wet weather and London Olympics.
The group opened seven new attractions in 2012, taking it to almost 100 over four continents, and will open another six this year, including a Sea Life centre in Manchester, England and Legoland discovery centre in New York.
A listing would likely include some new shares to help pay down debt, but the bulk would come from existing shareholders reducing their stakes, chief financial officer Andrew Carr said. Kirkbi has a 36pc stake, while Blackstone and CVC have 34pc and 28pc respectively. (Reuters)