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Lego parent buys Madame Tussauds owner Merlin for [pounds sterling]5bn.

A consortium including Lego owner Kirkbi agreed Friday to buy Britain's Merlin Entertainments, owner of Madame Tussauds wax museum and the London Eye Ferris wheel, for [pounds sterling]5.0 billion ($6.3 billion, 5.6 billion euros).

Kirkbi, which is the majority owner in Danish children's toy maker Lego, said in a statement that it will purchase the tourist attractions company in a consortium alongside US private equity group Blackstone and Canadian pension fund CPPIB for [pounds sterling]5.9 billion including debt.

Kirkbi already owns almost 30 percent of Merlin following the sale of Legoland Parks to the London-listed group in 2005.

The consortium's bid vehicle Berkeley offered 455 pence per share in cash for Merlin, which also owns popular theme parks Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventure in Britain, Gardaland in Italy and Heide Park in Germany.

The price marked a significant premium to the stock's closing level on Thursday of 395 pence.

"Merlin is a global leader in location based, family entertainment, with a unique portfolio of brands and attractions spanning 25 countries and four continents, and with a proven strategy that has delivered over many years," said Merlin chairman John Sunderland in the statement.

He added: "The Merlin independent directors believe this offer represents an opportunity for Merlin shareholders to realise value for their investment in cash at an attractive valuation.

"We are therefore unanimously recommending it to our shareholders."

Kirkbi chief executive Soren Thorup Sorensen added that the acquisition would enable the combined group to enter a new growth phase.

"With a shared understanding of the business and its culture, we believe that this group of investors has the unique collective resources necessary to equip Merlin ... for their next phase of growth.

"We are committed to ensuring Legoland and the other activities in Merlin reach their full potential, which we believe is best pursued under private ownership, in order to deliver fantastic experiences to visitors of all ages around the world," he said.

Merlin was founded in 1999 and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2013.

The British group booked sales of [pounds sterling]1.65 billion in 2018, when it welcomed a total of 67 million visitors to its popular tourist attractions that are dotted around the world.


Lego's owner are adding London tourism landmarks to their portfolio (AFP/ KEVORK DJANSEZIAN)

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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 29, 2019
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