Legoland Operator Merlin Entertainments Plans IPO in London

Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd., the private-equity backed owner of Madame Tussauds and the London Eye, plans to raise 200 million pounds ($324 million) selling shares in a London initial public offering.

Blackstone Group LP (BX), CVC Capital Partners Ltd. and Lego Group owner Kirkbi A/S are also expected to sell part of their stakes in the offering, the company said today in a statement. The owners are seeking an enterprise value, or the sum of Merlin’s equity and net debt, of about 4 billion pounds, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the sale has yet to be completed. A London-based company representative declined to comment on the valuation.

Merlin comes to the market in a year when IPOs on European exchanges have raised about $17 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, compared with $10 billion in the same period of 2012. Private-equity shareholders including Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd. and Permira Advisers LLP are selling their stakes in companies via London IPOs as investors return to Europe’s markets on the strength of an economic recovery.

Merlin, which also runs Legoland parks, said it will use proceeds of the IPO to repay debt and cover the expenses.

“The directors of Merlin believe that the global offer will position Merlin for the next stage of its development by providing the appropriate long-term ownership structure,” the company said in the statement. “The global offer will also assist the group in retaining and incentivising employees.”

Net Debt

Merlin, which had net debt of about 1.3 billion pounds at the end of 2012, abandoned a sale to the public three years ago in favor of selling a stake to CVC, and opted against a New York IPO earlier this year, people familiar with the matter said.

Merlin said today that revenue rose 11 percent to 889 million pounds in the 35 weeks ended Aug. 31, or 7.1 percent on a comparable basis. The company is developing a Legoland site in Dubai and has identified potential locations in Japan and South Korea. It also has longer term plans to expand in China.

At least 20 percent of the shares will be publicly traded after the IPO. Kirkbi, which owns 75 percent of the Lego Group, “intends to remain a long-term strategic shareholder.”

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Barclays Plc, along with Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc and Unicredit Bank AG are managing the Merlin IPO, according to today’s statement. Lazard Ltd. is financial adviser.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruth David in London at rdavid9@bloomberg.net Clementine Fletcher in London at cfletcher5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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