Vardon seals pounds 1.8m price tag for Cornish visitor attraction

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The Independent Online
SEAL Sanctuary, the Cornish visitor attraction based on the rescue, care and release of sick seals, has been bought for pounds 1.8m by Vardon, the leisure company that last October acquired eight Sea Life centres - marine parks - and simultaneously floated on the stock market.

Vardon said Seal Sanctuary, located on the banks of the river Helford at Gweek, was a natural fit for its existing operations in the low-priced, mass market leisure field. The sanctuary made pounds 124,000 pre-tax in the year to last February, and attracted 200,000 visitors in 1992 with the adult entrance fee at pounds 4 and pounds 3 for children.

A mixture of pounds 900,000 in cash and 794,000 Vardon shares is being used to buy the sanctuary, which opened in 1973, from four active and 12 passive investors. Vardon will also assume pounds 350,000 of debts. Net assets of the sanctuary, which occupies 35 acres, are put at pounds 1.3m.

Vardon, formed last year by the purchase of the London and York Dungeons from Kunick, also wants to break into bingo. Nick Irens, the chief executive and former finance director at First Leisure, said the aim was to buy a chain of about six clubs.

There are 950 bingo halls in the UK, some 400 of which are controlled by Rank Organisation and Bass. 'There is a maze of private operators, and we are exploring a number of opportunities,' Mr Irens added.

The acquisition and bingo ambitions were announced with Vardon's results for 1992. Pre-tax profits of pounds 2.43m exceeded the flotation forecast of pounds 2.3m. The final dividend of 0.5p is as forecast.

Investment analysts expect Vardon to make up to pounds 3.5m this year. The shares held steady yesterday at 77p, some 71 per cent above the 45p flotation price.

(Photograph omitted)

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