Legoland owner leaps 9% on stock market debut


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The Independent Online

Merlin Entertainments, the group behind London Eye and Madame Tussauds, raised £957m yesterday as it listed on the London Stock Exchange, with its shares leaping 9 per cent on its debut.

The Legoland and Warwick Castle operator’s shares rushed up 32p to 347p as it sold a  30 per cent stake priced at 315p, offering retail investors discounts on tickets to its attractions.

The chief executive Nick Varney, who sold shares worth £10m in the float, said: “We are delighted with the strong response from both institutions and retail shareholders to our offer. 

“We have long stated our belief that becoming a public company was Merlin’s ultimate destiny, providing the right long-term ownership to enable the next stage of development.”

Its private-equity backers Blackstone and CVC hold 22.6 and 13.1 per cent stakes in the company while the Legoland family trusts own 29.9 per cent. The share offer was nine times oversubscribed.

Institutions have been allotted 87.5 per cent of the shares sale while retail investors, who had to buy a minimum of £1000 worth of shares to get discounts on entry tickets, ended up with 12.5 per cent of the 304 million shares on offer.  After paying off the investors selling their stakes, the float raised £165m for reducing debt.