Though trading conditions were tough for many of its existing operations in Europe, the opening of seven new attractions in Asia Pacific, North America and Northern Europe helped Merlin Entertainments achieve record turnover and attendance in 2012.
In announcing its financial results for the year ending 29 December 2012, the world’s second-largest visitor attraction revealed that its turnover was £1.074 billion ($1.5.€1.2m) with operating profit £258 million (($392m/€305m), an increase of 16.1 and 16.5% respectively over 2011’s figures. Like for like, excluding businesses owned and opened before January 2011, growth was 0.5 and 1%.
“We are particularly pleased to have announced both record sales, which broke the £1 billion barrier for the first time, and a record number of visitors – 54 million,” highlghts Merlin chief executive Nick Varney. “Our success was achieved in spite of the fact that 2012 was one of the most challenging years we have experienced since founding Merlin in 1999. In Northern Europe our theme parks were hit by the wettest weather on record through all of our key trading periods while those in southern Europe felt the impact of the continued euro zone crisis. In the UK our attractions had to compete with the London Olympics – a £10 billion, ‘once in a lifetime’ event that attracted more than 10 million visitors in the middle of our peak season.”
“While the economic outlook remains uncertain, the investments we made through 2012 and our unrelenting focus on customer satisfaction mean that Merlin is stronger than ever. The successful roll-out of Midway attractions continues, with a particular focus on cluster locations, as does our ongoing investment in the development of the existing estate. The business continues to broaden its international footprint, diversifying its revenues and providing further exposure to faster growing economies in Asia Pacific and North America. All this means our iconic brands will attract more visitors in more locations around the world through 2013 and we look forward to a challenging but exciting year.”
Merlin now operates almost 100 attractions across four continents. New openings planned for the next 12 months include Legoland Discovery Centres in Toronto (Canada), Westchester (New York) and Oberhausen (Germany), a Sea Life aquarium in Manchester (England), Madame Tussauds in Tokyo, and the new Berlin Dungeon attraction in the German capital. In line with the company’s destination resort strategy, Merlin will open a Lego-themed hotel at Legoland California following the introduction last year of the Legoland Hotel in Windsor near London, which traded well ahead of target.
The company is now preparing for a initial public offering (IPO) by 2014 and has chosen London as its preferred stock market listing location.