The company behind attractions including Legoland, Madame Tussauds and the Edinburgh Dungeon, has unveiled plans to float on the London stock market.
Private equity-owned Merlin Entertainments, which also owns Alton Towers and the Sea Life Centre at Loch Lomond, is likely to be worth as much as £3 billion.
It said the flotation, targeting a free float of at least 20 per cent, would help it pay down debt and plan for the next stage of its development. Plans include a Legoland Park in Dubai and eventual expansion into China.
Chief executive Nick Varney said Merlin came to the market with “a consistent record of strong growth in both revenues and profits and bright prospects for the future”.
He said: “Delivering memorable experiences to our millions of visitors is our passion and we see a world of opportunity ahead of us. Our experienced team has the ability and ambition to deliver on our plans, as we develop our existing businesses and roll out Merlin’s unique portfolio of leisure brands internationally.
“The IPO [initial public offering] will provide Merlin with the platform for our next stage of development and allow us to plan for the longer term.”
Merlin, which operates 99 attractions in 22 countries, generated revenues of more than £1bn last year and is Europe’s leading visitor attraction operator.
Private equity firms Blackstone and CVC plan to sell a significant chunk of their shares.
However Kirkbi, the Danish family-owned investment company that owns the Lego and Legoland trademarks and 75 per cent of the Lego Group, said it intends to retain a significant shareholding following the flotation.
It is expected that Merlin will raise around £200 million in proceeds from the float, which will be open to retail investors.
The minimum application size will be £1,000 and shareholders will be entitled to a 30 per cent discount on some of the group’s annual passes.
The group said it had continued to trade well in the year to date, with revenues up 11 per cent to £888.7m in the 35 weeks to the end of August.
Growth was 7.1 per cent when stripping out investment in new attractions. The firm also said the issue of shares will help it in “retaining and incentivising” employees.
Merlin was formed in 1999 to create a family entertainment company with global portfolio of brands and venues. It put off plans for a listing in 2010 due to jittery markets. Goldman Sachs and Barclays are running the offering, and are joint bookrunners along with Citi and Morgan Stanley.