Tourist Attraction Firm Merlin In Float Plan
The company behind some of Britain's biggest tourist has announced plans to float on the London stock market.
Private equity-owned Merlin Entertainments, which operates sites including the London Eye, Madame Tussauds and Alton Towers, announced the decision on Monday morning.
It operates 99 attractions in 22 countries and received more than 54 million visitors in 2012.
Analysts believe the firm to be worth as much as £3bn.
Merlin said the public offer of shares will enable it to pay down debt and plan for the next stage of its development.
The company generated revenues of more than £1bn last year and is Europe's leading visitor attraction operator and the second largest globally after Walt Disney.
Other sites operated by Merlin include Legoland Parks, Chessington World of Adventures and Warwick Castle.
News of an impending float was first revealed by Sky News City Editor Mark Kleinman, last May.
Merlin is owned by private equity firms Blackstone and CVC Capital Partners, two of the world's biggest buyout firms, and would be likely to head straight into the FTSE 100 given its potential £3bn-plus valuation.
Blackstone and CVC will sell a significant chunk of their shares, although Kirkbi, the Danish family-owned investment company which owns the Lego and Legoland trademarks and 75% of the Lego Group, said it intends to retain a significant shareholding following the flotation.
It is expected that Merlin will raise around £200m in proceeds from the flotation, which will be open to retail investors.
The minimum application size will be £1,000 and shareholders will be entitled to a 30% discount on either two adult Merlin Annual Passes or one family Merlin Annual Pass.
The group said it had continued to trade well in the year to date, with revenues up 11% to £888.7m in the 35 weeks to the end of August, including growth of 7.1% when stripping out investment in new attractions.
Chief executive Nick Varney said: "Merlin Entertainments comes to the market with a consistent record of strong growth in both revenues and profits and bright prospects for the future."
Merlin said the issue of shares will help it in "retaining and incentivising" employees.