Merlin to Launch Legoland Park in Shanghai

Shanghai Skyline H 2014

The U.K. visitor attractions group is upping its investment in the booming Chinese amusement park market.

Merlin Entertainments, the world's second-largest visitor attraction company behind Walt Disney, has partnered with China Media Capital to build a Legoland amusement park in Shanghai.

The agreement was announced on Wednesday during Chinese president Xi Jinping's state visit to the U.K., as the two countries unveiled a package of business deals worth $45 billion and promoted increased trade ties.

Said to involve an investment of some $300 million, the Chinese park will be similar in scale to the Legoland attractions Merlin is building in Japan, South Korea and Dubai. Additional financial details were not disclosed. 

The two partners said they will explore opportunities to develop additional visitor attractions throughout China around Merlin brands, which include DreamWorks Tours and Kung Fu Panda Adventures.

"China is a key growth market for [us], and we see this partnership as providing a significant opportunity to accelerate our plans," said Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainments.

China Media Capital is a Shanghai-based investment fund and private equity firm backed by the Chinese government. In September, CMC unveiled a major agreement with Warner Bros. to create a joint venture, Flagship Entertainment Group, to produce and distribute big-budget Chinese-language films for global distribution. The fund has also invested in DreamWorks Animation's Chinese joint venture.

Merlin has five existing attractions in China, including four Madame Tussauds wax museums and a massive aquarium in Shanghai. The company plans to open another three attractions in the next 18 months.

Shanghai is experiencing a building spree of flagship amusement park properties. Disney's $5.4 billion, 963-acre Shanghai resort is set to open in early 2016, while DreamWorks' $2 billion park is expected to launch in the city in 2017.