Merlin brushes off activist investor calls to go private

Bosses of Legoland and Madame Tussauds owner Merlin Entertainments have rebuffed calls from a US activist investor to sell the company and remove it from the stock market.

San Francisco-based private equity house ValueAct Capital wrote an open letter to Merlin’s chairman, Sir John Sunderland, saying there is significant interest from private equity firms to buy the company at a premium to its languishing share price.

ValueAct claimed there could be interest to buy the company for as much as £4.50 a share – a price not seen since October 2017 when ValueAct first bought a stake in the group.

But Merlin said in a statement: “It remains in the best interests of all its shareholders to continue to pursue its current strategy to create a high growth, high return, family entertainment company based upon strong brands and a global portfolio that is naturally balanced against the impact of external factors.”

Despite the assurances that the company would continue as normal and no bids being made, the speculation sent shares rising in early trading. Shares opened up 4.48% at 347.4p on Thursday.

Merlin is one of the biggest theme park and attractions operators in the world with sites including Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and the London Eye. But it has struggled recently, with a series of downgrades from City analysts.

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