U.K. Operator of Madame Tussauds, Legoland Plans IPO

Madame Tussauds London Whitney Houston H

Merlin Entertainments also operates such attractions as the London Eye and Alton Towers, Britain's most-visited theme park, which recently struck a deal with the BBC.

LONDON – Merlin Entertainments, the U.K. operator of such attractions as Madame Tussauds and the London Eye ferris wheel on the river Thames here, is planning an IPO.

The firm is Europe's biggest operator of visitor attractions and is believed to rank second behind Walt Disney worldwide in key metrics.
The company runs Madame Tussauds venues in London, Hollywood, New York, Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong Amsterdam, Berlin and various other locations. It also operates Alton Towers, Britain's most-visited theme park, Legoland in several European locations, California, Florida and Malaysia, dungeon attractions across the U.K. and Warwick Castle.

The company plans to list its stock in London.

Merlin, currently owned by private equity firms, overall runs 99 attractions in 22 countries. The Guardian said it is believed to be worth as much as $4.8 billion (£3 billion).

The company didn't immediately detail how many shares it would offer and at what price. Merlin plans to use the proceeds from the IPO to pay down debt and invest in its business.

Its revenue for its latest fiscal year topped $1.6 billion (£1 billion).

Alton Towers recently unveiled a deal with BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the U.K. public broadcaster, that will lead to the creation of CBeebies Land, an area featuring characters from the BBC's kids channel. The companies said the themed area would include rides, "immersive play areas," live experiences, character appearances and seasonal events.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai