Lazard to advise on £900m Tussaud's float

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The Independent Online

Charterhouse Development Capital (CDC) is considering selling Madame Tussaud's, the waxworks museums and theme park operator, to another private equity group. This is one of the options, along with a trade sale and a stock market flotation, which Charterhouse's Gordon Bonnyman is considering as a means of realising several hundred million pounds.

CDC bought Tussaud's from Pearson, the publisher, five years ago for £352m in debt and equity and it has since invested another £300m in expanding the group overseas to New York, Las Vegas, Hong Kong and, most recently, Germany. It now operates 13 attractions, twice as many as in 1998, and has a one-third stake in the London Eye.

Lazard, the investment bank, this week won the mandate to advise on the sale after competing with six other banks. "Lazard has been appointed to examine all the options," said a source close to the situation, "and at this stage nothing has been ruled out".

No deal will be completed until next year, as Tussaud's management and CDC want to base decisions on the group's accounts for calendar 2003. Ebitda profits have risen from £31m in 2000 to an expected £75m or £80m for this year, which should justify a valuation of some £900m.

While the famous waxworks in Baker Street, London, is still the core of the business, it has added three British outdoor theme parks to its collection: Alton Towers, in the Midlands, and Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park, both in Surrey.

CDC owns a majority stake in Tussaud's, having distributed equity to the present management and to Hans Jurgen Tiemann, who sold a German theme park, Heide Park, to the group two years ago.