Merlin Entertainment has released its 2008 results, the first since it acquired the Tussauds Group and Gardaland in Italy, helping it put on an additional 7.6 million visits compared to 2007 (35.1 million in total). This in turn contributed to the world’s second largest attraction operator posting a 37% increase in revenue to £662.3 million ($1.05bn/E754m).
This represents the eighth consecutive year of double-digit growth for Merlin, whose operating profit in 2008 was up by 12% on 2007 to £142.2 million. Cash at bank and in hand at year-end was £114.9 million, with immediately available money market funds of £23.8 million.
Such performance had led to Merlin being acknowledged as the UK’s fastest growing private company in terms of profit in the PricewaterhouseCoopers Profit Track 100 rankings. Although much of the group’s growth has been through acquisition, it has also embarked on an ambitious expansion programme of its “midway” attraction formats.
“The 2008 figures demonstrate that through a policy of strategic investment, clear positioning and tight financial management Merlin has successfully integrated these [Gardaland and Tussauds] businesses, and is beginning to maximise the latent potential and return on capital investment across these acquisitions, as well as its existing individual attractions,” says a Merlin spokesperson.
Merlin attributes its success to a number of factors including its senior management team, staff development programme, strong branded attractions, a mix of indoor/outdoor and resort/midway attractions, and sustained organic growth combined with new openings and selective acquisitions.
“We are very encouraged by these results, and by the fact that a large proportion of our growth in 2008 was driven by like-for-like trading in our existing parks and attractions,” says Merlin CEO, Nick Varney. “Indeed, I believe Merlin’s real success lies in our ability to maximise organic growth within the business through planned investment in all our sites combined with high levels of customer service.”
“Early results for 2009 are promising,” the company spokesperson informs us, “while the public may be cutting back on foreign holidays and other perceived luxuries, a family day out at a quality attraction potentially becomes even more important. What Merlin has to deliver is the value for money and customer service those customers will increasingly demand.”
A fuller list of figures, breakdowns and the annual review are available here.