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Upbeat 2018 results for Merlin Entertainments provide impetus for further growth

We continue to seek to mitigate ongoing external cost pressures
– Nick Varney

European attractions operator Merlin Entertainments has reported growth in a number of areas of its business in 2018, including record visitor numbers.

Some 67 million people visited Merlin’s attractions during the year, up from 66 million in the year to December 2017. The operator reports a profit before tax of £285m (US$377m, €332m), an increase of 4.9 per cent on 2017, with its operating free cash flow increasing by 9.7 per cent to £345m (US$457m, €402m).

Across different sectors of the business, there was an organic revenue increase of 6.4 per cent for Legoland, driven by the opening of more than 640 accommodation rooms, which offset a broadly flat like for like performance. Merlin said that a further 372 rooms are expected to open in 2019 at locations such as Alton Towers and the Magic Hotel at Gardaland. Resort Theme Parks organic revenue grew by 9.1 per cent, through product investment, favourable weather and a strong Halloween, while Midway Attractions saw its organic revenue grow by 1.1 per cent on the year.

The preliminary results drew attention to the potential for continued growth, with continued progress towards opening Legoland New York in 2020, an agreement to open another Legoland park in Korea by 2022, the launch of two new Midway brands in Peppa Pig World and The Bear Grylls Adventure, and a "productivity agenda" which is expected to yield up to £35m (US$46m, €40m) of annual savings by 2022.

Nick Varney, chief executive officer of Merlin Entertainments, commented: "2018 saw improved momentum across most of our businesses, reflecting the strength of our diversified portfolio and geographic spread. Resort Theme Parks benefited from successful product investment such as Wicker Man at Alton Towers; Legoland Parks’ growth was driven by record levels of accommodation openings; and, in addition to the contribution of seven new attractions, Midway saw improving trends in London.

"We continue to seek to mitigate ongoing external cost pressures and expect to deliver up to £35m of annualised savings by 2022 through a number of initiatives. Not only will this help underpin our financial outlook, but it will also better enable our people to deliver what matters most to our guests: fantastic memorable experiences."

Merlin  Merlin Entertainments  Legoland  Resort Theme Parks  Midway Attractions  Nick Varney 
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European attractions operator Merlin Entertainments has reported growth in a number of areas of its business in 2018, including record visitor numbers. Some 67 million people visited Merlin’s attractions during the year, up from 66 million in the year to December 2017. The operator reports a profit before tax of £285m (US$377m, €332m), an increase of 4.9 per cent on 2017, with its operating free cash flow increasing by 9.7
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Merlin's Legoland Parks have benefited from a substantial increase in accommodation rooms in 2018 / Shutterstock
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