U.K. Operator of Madame Tussauds, Legoland Files for IPO

Madame Tussauds London Whitney Houston H
Madame Tussauds London's Whitney Houston exhibit

Merlin Entertainments also operates such attractions as the London Eye and Alton Towers, Britain's most-visited theme park.

LONDON - U.K. theme parks and visitor attractions firm Merlin Entertainments, the operator of Madame Tussauds and Legoland sites, on Wednesday filed for an IPO that will raise up to $1.28 billion (£800 million).

The company also operates such attractions as the London Eye ferris wheel and Alton Towers, Britain's most-visited theme park.

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The planned issue of stock in London values Merlin at up to $5.3 billion (£3.34 billion). It was valued at $3.61 billion (£2.25 billion) in 2010 when a private equity firm bought a stake. The firm plans to sell shares for $4.5 billion-$5.3 billion (£2.80 billion-£3.30 billion).

The Merlin filing comes at a time of renewed IPO activity in the U.K., U.S. and beyond. Among others, social media giant Twitter is nearing a stock market debut.

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.

Merlin is currently owned by private equity firms Blackstone and CVC, which are expected to sell part of their holdings.

They had previously eyed a stock market debut a few years ago, but dropped that plan amid market volatility.

"Merlin Entertainments has bright prospects for the future, and the listing will provide us with the platform for our next stage of development,” said CEO Nick Varney.

Merlin's stock is expected to begin trading on Nov. 12.

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