Merlin Entertainments moves towards London for float

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Merlin Entertainments Group, the private-equity backed owner of Madame Tussauds and Legoland, is understood to have moved closer to choosing London for its planned flotation in a move which could value it at more than £3 billion.

In March the company, which also owns Edinburgh Dungeon and the Sea Life Centre at Loch Lomond, said it was preparing to go public in either London or New York and had been meeting potential investors.

Chief executive Nick Varney has said he would prefer to list in the UK and speculation yesterday suggested that although a final decision had not been taken, the board was now looking at appointing advisors with a view to joining the London market.

Merlin is the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator behind Walt Disney, and had revenues of more than £1bn in 2012 from sites across the UK and US. The group was valued at £2.25bn in 2010 when private equity firm CVC Capital Partners bought a stake.

A sale would allow it to pay down its debt, which stood at £1.27bn at the end of December, and help fund expansion in the US and Asia.

Merlin, owned by the Danish investment company Kirkbi that controls Lego Group, and private equity firms Blackstone Group and CVC, put off plans for a listing in 2010 due to jittery markets.

Insurer Esure, estate agent Countrywide and wind farm investment fund Greencoat UK Wind have together raised a combined total of more than £1bn by listing in London in recent months.