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Merlin share price: Theme park operator posts final results

Merlin Entertainments (LON:MERL) has reported preliminary results for the year ended 26 December 2015.

**Highlights from the company’s statement:**
• Robust financial performance despite challenging trading at a number of attractions
• Continued strong performance in the LEGOLAND Parks Operating Group, with like for like revenue growth of 8.2% primarily reflecting growth in revenue per capita (RPC)
• Midway Attractions Operating Group like for like revenue growth of 2.3%

• Despite a strong initial start to 2015, Resort Theme Parks Operating Group revenue declined by 12.4% on a like for like basis due to the significant fall in visitation at Alton Towers following the accident on 2 June
• Continued strong contribution from New Business Development, with the opening of seven new Midway attractions and the addition of 277 new rooms across the theme park estate, driving total revenue growth at constant currency of 3.9%
• Further progress towards the opening of LEGOLAND Dubai (2016), Japan (2017) and South Korea (2018)
• Final dividend of 4.4 pence per share recommended by the Board, representing growth of 4.8% in the full year dividend
• Announcement of new milestone targets for 2020:
· 2,000 new accommodation rooms by the end of 2020
· 40 new Midway Attractions by the end of 2020
· Four new LEGOLAND parks by the end of 2020 (including three already announced)
• Formation of a strategic partnership with Big Bus Tours, the leading global owner-operator of Hop On Hop Off city tours, allowing further cooperation across many of our key city centre markets, and making an investment of $34.4 million (£24.6 million) in the company

Nick Varney, Merlin Entertainments Chief Executive Officer, said: “Despite a challenging year, the business delivered a robust performance in 2015. We continued to see a strong trading performance in LEGOLAND Parks and a positive contribution from New Business Development, opening seven new Midway attractions and expanding our accommodation offering with the addition of 277 new rooms.

“However, 2015 was a difficult year for Merlin following the accident at Alton Towers early in the summer season. The safety of our guests and employees must always come first and we have sought to learn every possible lesson to help ensure there is no repeat of what happened on 2 June.

“Merlin has a clear strategy, with clear competitive advantages leaving us well positioned in a dynamic marketplace. Today we have announced our New Business Development milestone targets for 2020 including 2,000 new rooms, forty new Midway Attractions and four new LEGOLAND parks. Whilst we remain mindful of macro-economic and geo-political factors outside of our control, we remain confident in the strength of the underlying business and the natural diversification that the growing portfolio creates.”
As of 07:09 GMT, Thursday, 25 February, Merlin Entertainments share price is 434.70p.

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