Lego family in group buying Merlin Entertainments

Movie star Jackie Chan was among the figures featured at the Madame Tussauds' waxwork show in Sentosa in 2014. An investor group that includes the family behind the Lego empire, Blackstone Group and Canadian pension fund CPPIB agreed to buy Merlin En
Movie star Jackie Chan was among the figures featured at the Madame Tussauds' waxwork show in Sentosa in 2014. An investor group that includes the family behind the Lego empire, Blackstone Group and Canadian pension fund CPPIB agreed to buy Merlin Entertainments, the operator of Legoland resorts and Madame Tussauds wax museums, for £5.9 billion (S$10 billion) including debt.TNP FILE PHOTO

LONDON • An investor group that includes the family behind the Lego empire agreed to buy Merlin Entertainments, the operator of Legoland resorts and Madame Tussauds wax museums, for £5.9 billion (S$10 billion) including debt.

Merlin investors would receive 455 pence per share, representing a premium of 15 per cent over its closing price of 395 pence on Thursday.

The deal is backed by Blackstone Group, Canadian pension fund CPPIB and the Danish family that controls Lego, the bidders said in a statement yesterday.

Investors had pushed the firm to consider a buyout, saying it would be worth more in private hands.

ValueAct Capital, which also lobbied for change at Britain's Rolls-Royce Holdings, said last month in an open letter to Merlin's board that it needs to spend more on new hotels and Legoland parks, and that is hard to do as a public company.

Merlin Entertainments has struggled since it was fined £5 million following a 2015 accident at its Alton Towers theme park in Britain that injured 16 people, while the Brexit vote a year later hampered its growth potential. In addition to operating Legoland and Madame Tussauds, it oversees attractions such as Peppa Pig World of Play and the Coca-Cola London Eye.

Investors had pushed the company to consider a buyout, saying it would be worth more in private hands.

Takeover speculation has helped propel Merlin's stock in recent months. Shares of the Dorset, England-based company were up 24 per cent this year through Thursday's close. Blackstone previously owned Merlin before a 2013 IPO.

More public companies have been going private, fuelled by buyout firms' growing cash reserves. Last year, the number of public-to-private deals hit its highest in more than a decade, according to Bain & Co's annual private equity report.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'Lego family in group buying Merlin Entertainments'. Print Edition | Subscribe