Merlin agrees to £5.9bn takeover

Merlin Entertainments owns the Sea Life Sanctuary attractionsMerlin Entertainments owns the Sea Life Sanctuary attractions
Merlin Entertainments owns the Sea Life Sanctuary attractions
Madame Tussauds’ owner Merlin Entertainments has agreed to a £5.9bn takeover by Lego’s owners, a private equity giant and a Canadian pension fund.

Merlin, which owns The York Dungeon and Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary, has accepted the bid from Kirkbi, the investment vehicle of Lego’s Danish founding family, Blackstone and pension fund Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board. Merlin also owns the Legoland and Alton Towers attractions.

The deal values the company at 455p per share, representing a 15 per cent premium on the FTSE 100 firm’s 395p per share value at the end of trading on Thursday, giving the group a total enterprise value of £5.9bn.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Merlin said it had rejected a number of previous takeover proposals.

Kirkbi, which is backed by the billionaire Kiristiansen family, currently owns an almost 30 per cent stake in the entertainment and theme park business.

Merlin floated on the London Stock Exchange six years ago, at an initial price of 315p per share.

Chairman Sir John Sunderland said: “Merlin is a global leader in location-based, family entertainment, with a unique portfolio of brands and attractions spanning 25 countries and four continents, and with a proven strategy that has delivered over many years.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The company has generated meaningful value since its IPO, with significant growth in revenue, earnings and cash flow.

“Following an unsolicited approach by a consortium of investors, and after rejecting a number of their proposals, 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.”

Mr Sunderland said the board unanimously recommended the deal to the company’s shareholders.

Analyst George Salmon at Hargreaves Lansdown said Merlin has had “plenty of ups and downs” during its six years on the UK stock market.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“An enchanting long term roll out story ensured the shares enjoyed a couple of strong years initially, but the impact of terror attacks in London meant the magic wore off and the agreed price in this deal is lower than where the stock traded at as recently as October 2017,” he said.

“Nonetheless, stock market investors have generally made a healthy return, with those investing from day one enjoying a 44 per cent gain plus a healthy stream of dividends.”

Related topics: