Merlin share price soars as group reports robust performance in challenging year
Shares in Merlin Entertainments (LON:MERL) have been in demand this morning after the blue-chip group reported flat profit for 2015, despite a drop in visitors to its Alton Towers theme park in Britain after a rollercoaster crash in June left four people seriously injured.
Merlin’s pre-tax profit for the year ended December 26 rose marginally to £250 million, compared to £249 million last year, while like-for-like revenue was 0.4 percent up to £1.28 billion.
The company, which operates attractions such as Madame Tussauds waxworks, Legoland and the London Eye, said Alton Towers had suffered a “significant” fall in visitor numbers after the accident on its Smiler ride on June 2. Visitor numbers and revenue at Merlin’s other UK theme parks, including Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures, were also dented.
CEO Nick Varney said: “Despite a challenging year, the business delivered a robust performance in 2015.” He further stressed that Merlin had “sought to learn every possible lesson to help ensure there is no repeat of what happened”.
Merlin also set out new plans for growth as it looks to “quicken the pace of expansion” principally across the US, China, Japan and South Korea. It said that by 2020 it plans to add 44 new attractions, including four Legoland parks, and add another 2,000 rooms to its hotels. The business currently runs 12 hotels and four holiday villages.
In line with its expansion strategy, Merlin announced today that it had taken a 15 percent stake in Big Bus Tours, which operates hop-on-hop-off city tours. The $34.4 million investment will see the company acquire ordinary shares and shareholder loan notes.
By 09:32 GMT, Merlin’s share price had jumped 4.04 percent to 452.20p. The theme operator was outperforming the FTSE 100 index, which meanwhile stood 1.89 percent higher at 5,977.96 points.
As of 09:53 GMT, Thursday, 25 February, Merlin Entertainments share price is 455.50p.
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