For the second year running global visitor attraction operator Merlin Entertainments today topped the Sunday Times Deloitte Buyout Track 100, which identifies the private equity-owned companies in the UK with the fastest growing profits (EBITDA) of more than £50m. This underlines the company’s excellent record of consistent growth and profitability stemming both from organic development and selected acquisition. This has resulted in 8 consecutive years of double digit EBITDA growth.
The leading name in location based, quality family entertainment, Merlin is now the world’s number two visitor attraction operator, with 13, 500 employees, and a portfolio which goes across 12 countries, and 3 continents – Europe, North America and Asia. In 2007 the Group welcomed 32.4 million visitors across its 57 attractions and 6 hotels/1 holiday village, a figure which is expected to rise by around 10% in 2008.
Merlin – A twofold Growth Strategy
A planned programme of strategic acquisition including most recently The London Aquarium and Underwater Adventures Aquarium in the USA. The Group’s 2007 figures for the first time also reflect in part the acquisition of The Tussauds Group which took place in May of that year.
Consistent and sustained underlying organic growth. Year on year Merlin’s core business has outperformed all its competitors, continually increasing the profitability of individual attractions. This has been driven by Merlin’s significant investment in new rides, attractions, shows and guest services. This has been supported by a programme of new openings, rolling out an average of 4/5 new ‘midway’ indoor attractions a year (Madame Tussauds, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres, and SEA LIFE). This has included adding ‘second gates’ at their theme park resorts – most recently the highly successful opening of a SEA LIFE at LEGOLAND California.
2009 is expected to continue this trend – with 4 new attractions under development and due to open in Europe/USA; and significant investment programmes underway across the portfolio. Additionally, the Group has recently announced the development of two new LEGOLAND theme parks in Dubai and Malaysia; and is at planning stages for new resort hotels in California and at two sites in the UK.
Commenting, Chief Executive Nick Varney said: “Given the current global economic climate 2009 will be a challenging year for all businesses. However we are continuing to invest in what are high quality, trusted, global leisure brands and believe we will remain first choice for family entertainment. We also operate many of the top attractions in key markets which we believe will benefit from the trend towards holidaying closer to home.
“Merlin has also continued to prosper under PE ownership, particularly with Blackstone with whom my team and I have an excellent working relationship. They have provided not simply investment, but also the business and strategic support we needed to build a world leading leisure organisation of which we are both proud; and which still has enormous potential for growth. I do not believe this could have been achieved in any other way.”
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