Merlin Entertainments Gains on Debut After $1.5 Billion IPO

Merlin Entertainments Plc, the private-equity backed owner of Madame Tussauds, rose in its London trading debut after raising about 957 million pounds ($1.5 billion) in an initial public offering.

The shares gained as much as 13 percent and were up 9.4 percent at 344.75 pence as of 11:35 a.m. in London. They were priced at 315 pence, near the top of an original range of 280 to 330 pence. The amount raised could increase to 1.05 billion pounds including a so-called over-allotment option, Merlin said in a statement.

“The IPO has clearly been very successful and the shares have gone to a modest premium,” Jeffrey Harwood, an analyst at Oriel Securities Ltd. in London, said by phone. “Merlin is a strong company with a successful record of delivering returns for its shareholders and has strong growth prospects.”

Owned by Blackstone Group LP, CVC Capital Partners Ltd. and Lego Group owner Kirkbi A/S, Merlin is among a host of private-equity backed firms attempting to list in Europe, where IPO volumes have nearly doubled to about $24 billion compared with the same period in 2012, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Development Plan

“We have long stated our belief that becoming a public company was Merlin’s ultimate destiny, providing the right long-term ownership to enable the next stage of development,” Nick Varney, chief executive officer of the London-based company, said in today’s statement.

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.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Barclays Plc, along with Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc and Unicredit Bank AG managed the IPO. Lazard Ltd. was financial adviser.

Numericable SAS, France’s largest cable operator owned by Carlyle Group LP and Cinven Group Ltd., also rose on its trading debut in Paris today after raising about 652 million euros ($875 million) in the country’s biggest IPO in four years. The stock, priced at 24.80 euros, climbed as high as 27.40 euros.

Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd. began an IPO of U.K. wind-power generator Infinis Plc on Oct. 21.

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