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Robert Niles

Merlin looking to raise $3+ billion in IPO. Hmmm... what could it spend that on?

Published: September 6, 2009 at 2:38 PM

How's this for a juicy tidbit to whet your appetite for speculation?

A British newspaper reported today that Legoland owner Merlin Entertainments Group, is planning an initial public offering [IPO] on the London stock exchange, one that could earn the company more than 2 billion pounds (in excess of $3 billion).

Merlin's current largest shareholder is Blackstone Group, which also partners with NBC Universal in the Universal Orlando Resort. Blackstone, possibly via Merlin, has been tipped as a potential bidder for the up-for-sale Busch Entertainment Corp. theme parks, which include SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.

An IPO would raise a chunk of the cash necessary for that deal quite nicely, plus make the resulting company even more attractive to potential investors. And if Merlin does not pursue or acquire the BEC theme parks, it would have a pile of cash on hand to either build or buy new properties.

So what will it do?

Replies (6)

Derek Potter

Published: September 6, 2009 at 3:12 PM

A little birdie said that Blackstone was in Orlando meeting with Busch and InBev execs. Of course it was a little birdie, so you know how that goes.

If Merlin wants to get further into the theme park business, I can't imagine a better way than buying some of the most highly regarded parks in the industry. There isn't a single dog in that collection of parks. It's what businesspeople call a "turnkey operation", which is to say that nothing needs to be done to open the park. The only thing I would hope is that whoever buys the A/B parks doesn't mess with them too much, but continues down the same path.

Published: September 6, 2009 at 4:37 PM

@ Derek Potter

I hope that if Merlin does buy the parks that they DON'T end up going down the same path but invest more money into the parks...

I get to see the planned projects before they cut Large chunks out.

Don Neal

Published: September 6, 2009 at 4:45 PM

Merlin buying the Busch/Inbev parks has always been the one that made the most sense to me since Inbev took over and rumors of their sale started. I think it would be great and fit in perfectly with the Merlin family friendly and well maintained parks. I hope it happens!
TH Creative

Published: September 6, 2009 at 5:54 PM

Stay tuned to this story, folks.
Daniel Cernuschi

Published: September 7, 2009 at 2:43 AM

It would be interesting if this deal happened. Merlin have had a huge impact on the parks in the UK (where I live), bringing rides such as SAW - The Ride to Thorpe Park, and SW6 (secret weapon 6) for Alton Towers. There have however been rumours that some of the UK parks have been lacking funding to upkeep exisiting areas (generally tidy ups of theming around the park). Going to watch this closely.
Pyra Dong

Published: September 7, 2009 at 8:30 AM

Although I don't understand the many dollars, cents, and connections to theme park buying 101... I've been following this Blackstone group and I have to admit, a buy of the AB-Inbev parks isn't a bad idea.
I was one of the tearful people when A-B got bought out. Sadly, it seems that many Busch Park guests attributed any problems with cut backs from the Inbev buyout and not the economy. But from what I know of Blackstone, it seems like they will actually take care of the parks and I think many people will actually like this.

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