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FLOTATION PLANS AXED AMID MARKET WORRIES.

Byline: HENRYKZIENTEK

TWO more major names have shelved stock market flotations in the face of financial turmoil.

The private equity owner of Alton Towers and Madame Tussauds firm Merlin Entertainments said it had put the leisure group's pounds 2bn stock market debut on ice - while the same company has halted a flotation of US travel business Travelport.

And high street fashion chain New Look has also scrapped plans for a stock market flotation - the second time in two years that its owners have halted an initial public offering for the retail business.

New Look, owned by buy-out firms Permira andApax Partners, stressed it had not binned flotation plans altogether.

Carl McPhail, chief executive of New Look, said: "We have taken the difficult decision to postpone the IPO as a result of the considerable volatility in the equity markets.

"We remain convinced of the strengths of the New Look business and its suitability as a public company. We will re-evaluate our options when market conditions improve."

Merlin Entertainments is the world's second biggest visitor attraction business behind Walt Disney.

The IPO cancellations come as a blowto the private equity and investment banking industry - with the Merlin and Travelport floats seen as paving the way for a new wave of listings and confirmation of a market recovery.

There has been severe volatility on markets in recent weeks, with the FTSE 100 Index slumping to lows not seen for three-and-a-half months and America's benchmark index closing below the 10,000 mark at one stage.

Fears over debt levels in Greece and other embattled European countries have sparked a hefty sell-off on global markets, coming not long after fears over America's plans to tax banks and limit their activities.

It is also believed there is reluctance among overseas institutional investors to put money intoUKshares generally, given unease over the value of sterling.

The owner of discount retailer Matalan also put sale plans on hold after failing to attract interest from would-be buyers.

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DOWNTURN: Alton Towers' owner has shelved its flotation

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Feb 13, 2010
Words:338
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