Legoland Dubai to open in 2016

Operator Merlin said a deal was agreed in 2012 in which the theme park will be funded by third parties, including Dubai’s Meraas

Legoland Dubai is set to open in 2016 with global leisure parks giant Merlin Entertainment revealing fresh plans for the theme park.

The park was first proposed in 2008 at a site within the wider Dubailand project, but was put on the backburner in 2010 amid the financial crisis.

However, in a prospectus released on Wednesday ahead of its debut on the London Stock Market next month, Merlin said it planned to open Legoland Dubai in 2016 under a deal in which it would be funded by third parties, including Dubai’s Meraas.

“The group has also entered into an agreement with, amongst others, Meraas Malls and Hospitality LLC to develop and operate Legoland Dubai under this operating model, with launch planned for 2016,” Merlin said.

It added: “The initial development and construction of Legoland Dubai is being funded by third parties. Merlin has the right to manage and operate the park for an initial term of 25 years, once open.”

The contract was signed in 2012, the prospectus information said.

Merlin said the launch of the project would boost its efforts for geographical diversification, which was part of the group’s growth strategy “that the directors believe will, over time, reduce the effects of seasonality on the Group’s business”.

However, it said the strategy to expand its operations into new countries and regions, which also included Japan and/or South Korea, over the longer term, China, and further into the US increased its risk exposure as a result of any change to laws and licensing regimes.

In 2008, Legoland Dubai was slated to cost AED912m ($248.28m) and occupy a total of three million square feet. No new details of its cost were given in the prospectus.

Merlin operates 99 attractions in 22 countries, including brands such as Madame Tussauds, the London Eye, Legoland Parks, Legoland Discovery Centres and Sea Life.

Merlin said 20 to 30 percent of its shares would be sold in the $323m offer when it hits the London Stock Market next month.

Merlin said Blackstone, CVC and KIRKBI, a Danish family-owned holding and investment company which owns 75 percent of the Lego Group, would sell a portion of their shareholdings in the float, though KIRKBI intended to remain a long-term major shareholder.

In 2012, Merlin recorded 54m visitors, generating total revenue of £1.07bn ($1.73bn) and underlying EBITDA of £346.0m ($557.97).

Nick Varney, Merlin CEO, said: “We believe that Merlin Entertainments has bright prospects for the future and, as we said in our intention to float announcement, the listing will provide us with the platform for our next stage of development.”

Merlin shares are priced at between £2.80 ($4.48) to £3.30 ($5.29).

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