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Merlin entertains Operator reveals 2016 results


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ttendance was up 1.3%, revenue by 1.6% and operating profit took a like-for- like dip of 1.4% in 2016 compared to the previous year at Merlin Entertainments, preliminary results show. Whilst the 'Midway' short stay


attractions group took a slight hit, the company's resort theme parks division saw like for like revenue growth of 4.3%. In a statement issued on March 2, Merlin reports that recovery is “well underway at


Alton Towers” and that other resort theme parks performed strongly last season. The Legoland parks operating group recorded revenue growth of 1.6%. Further gains can be expected in next year's results following the October 2016 opening of Legoland Dubai and the launch next month (April) of Legoland Japan. “Our performance in 2016 is testament to the benefits of our strategy of portfolio and geographic diversification” notes Merlin chief executive officer, Nick Varney. “The external environment continued to present challenges in a number of our key markets although the impact of this was offset to some degree by cost control measures taken during the year. We continue to be excited about the long term growth opportunities for Merlin. Whilst we are planning prudently, we remain confident of a good performance in the year ahead.” The world's biggest theme park and attractions operator after Disney made good


progress against its 2020 milestones last year. Five new Midway attractions opened, its accommodation offer was expanded and, notably, its entry into the Middle East region was secured with the opening of Legoland Dubai. “The pipeline into 2017 and beyond looks exciting with over half of the projects


necessary to achieve our 2020 milestones either opened, approved or under development,” adds Varney. “As we move into 2017, with ongoing volatility in a number of our markets and continued cost pressures, we will increase our focus on cost efficiency and productivity, while continuing to invest in our product, marketing and people to deliver safe and memorable experiences to our guests.”


Seventh consecutive year of growth for


Six Flags Revenue in 2016 at Six Flags Entertainment grew by $55 million to $1.3 billion, a 4% increase over 2015 and the seventh consecutive year of growth for the US-based park operator. Prior to foreign exchange translation from the company’s parks in Mexico and Canada, revenue was up 6%. In total, attendance across the Six Flags


portfolio was up by 5% to 30.1 million, a record high for the current number of parks, buoyed in the fourth quarter by the success of the seasonal events Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park. Six Flags cites its pricing strategy, strong membership and season pass sales (60% of visits last season were from pass holders) and its ongoing international licensing programme as contibutory factors to its performance. Whilst net income for the year decreased by $36 million or 24%, driven by an increase in non- cash compensation associated with the probable achievement of the company’s Project 600 award, a long-term growth goal established in 2014, adjusted EBITDA2 for the full year grew to a new high of $507 million.


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The Legoland parks group remains a steady performer for Merlin and is expected to contribute further this year with the opening of Legoland Japan


New rides and attractions are planned this year across the Merlin portfolio, with


Heide Park in Germany and Legoland Deutschland, Windsor and Florida all in line for a season of high investment, the latter three each receiving a new Ninjago Land themed area and dark ride. New Midway attractions opening over the next 12 months will include a Legoland Discovery Centre in Melbourne, Australia, Merlin's first attraction in India, Madame Tussauds Mumbai, and the launch of the the company's new Little Big City concept in Berlin, a reimagining of the model village concept. The group will also add 381 hotel rooms across its portfolio, mostly at various Legoland parks but also with the addition of a new Cbeebies Land Hotel at Alton Towers Resort in England. As well as the new Legoland park in Nagoya, Japan, which opens on April 1, Merlin is looking ahead to the expected 2019 launch of Legoland Korea. The company is also pushing ahead with plans for further Legoland parks in New York and China, including an outdoor park in Shanghai expected to open by 2022.


Comcast to take full control


of Universal Studio Japan Comcast NBCUniversal has agreed to purchase the 49% stake it does not already own in Universal Studios Japan. The deal, which is expected to close before the end of April, values the Osaka theme park at ¥840 billion (US$7.4 billion). Opened in 2001 as a Japanese-owned enterprise with a licence from NBCUniversal, Universal Studios Japan (USJ) has seen steady growth in attendance and revenue over the years thanks to a combination of classic Universal rides and attractions together with experiences designed specifically for the Asian market and, latterly, The Wizardng World of Harry Potter (as pictued). In taking full control of the


park, Comcast NBCUniversal is buying out partners including Goldman Sachs, former USJ CEO Glenn Gumpel, Asian private-equity firm MBK Partners and US hedge fund Owl Creek Asset Management. The purchase price is ¥254.8 billion (US$2.3 billion),including the assumption of USJ net debt. Comcast NBCUniversal says


the acquisition demonstrates its confidence in the Asian market where, as well as a licensing deal with Universal Studios Singapore, its is currently building a theme park in Beijing, set for completion in 2020.


MARCH 2017


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