Merlin Entertainments set to be taken private

London Eye, Merlin Entertainments

Merlin Entertainments is set to be taken into private ownership after a £5.9 billion buyout offer was made by a consortium.

The deal – which has been made by a group led by the family that own Lego franchise – offers £4.8 billion for Merlin’s shares, plus its £1.1 billion debt.

The company’s attractions in the UK include Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland Windsor.

It will be taken off the London Stock Exchange, where its shares rose by almost 14% on the back of today’s announcement.

Merlin is also known for its ‘midway’ brands such as the Dungeons, Sea Life Centres and Madame Tussauds, which typically feature in city centres.

The consortium said that it does not envisage any significant changes to the business’ operations under the takeover, and that there were no plans to sell off any part of the company.

‘Meaningful value’

Merlin chairman Sir John Sunderland said the company’s board unanimously recommended the deal to the company’s shareholders.

“The company has generated meaningful value since its IPO (Initial Public Offering), with significant growth in revenue, earnings and cash flow,” he said.

“The Merlin independent directors believe this offer represents an opportunity for Merlin shareholders to realise value for their investment in cash at an attractive valuation.”

Merlin became a publicly-owned company in 2013, with chief executive Nick Varney stating at the time that public ownership had always been an objective for the company.

He said at that time that private equity had been “good”, but that “being bought and sold every three to five years” proved disruptive.

“We also need to be able to consider some long-term investment projects that under private equity ownership you wouldn’t be able to do because of their investment horizons,” he told the Guardian in 2013.

Varney, along with Sunderland and the four other directors that make up Merlin’s board unanimously recommended that the company be returned to private ownership this morning.