September 18, 2014 / 10:39 AM / in 4 years

Merlin says traded well in key summer months

LONDON (Reuters) - Madam Tussauds and Legoland operator Merlin Entertainments said it traded well over its key summer period and forecast a year of growth.

A visitor poses for a photo next to a wax statue of U.S. President Barack Obama at Madam Tussaud's wax museum in Shanghai January 21, 2009. REUTERS/Nir Elias

The world’s No.2 operator of visitor attractions behind Walt Disney, which makes about a third of its turnover in July and August alone, said on Thursday its summer performance took like-for-like revenue growth for the 36 weeks to Sept. 6 to 6.7 percent.

The rise compared with the 8.1 percent underlying growth reported for the first half of the year, although the firm had flagged a second-half slowdown due to tough comparatives with the same period last year.

Merlin said profit growth in the period was consistent with management’s expectations and was expected to result in full-year underlying profit margins similar to last year’s levels.

Prior to the update analysts were on average forecasting full-year core earnings of 400 million pounds ($652.2 million), according to Reuters data.

“The prospects for 2015 and beyond are attractive,” said Chief Executive Nick Varney.

Total group revenue in the 36-week period, including the impact of new attractions opened within the last year, rose 9.3 percent on a constant-currency basis.

At actual exchange rates, total growth was 3.8 percent due to the strength of sterling against Merlin’s main trading currencies.

Merlin, which listed on the London stock market in November, currently makes over 60 percent of sales in Britain and continental Europe but is aiming to generate a third from Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific with a raft of new sites.

In July the firm said it was in advanced talks to open more Legoland Parks in China and the United States. Merlin is already due to open parks in Dubai and Japan in 2016 and 2017 respectively, taking it to seven globally, and has said it sees scope for 20 in total.

Shares in the group, whose attractions also include Sea Life, Alton Towers and the London Eye, closed at 340.5 pence on Wednesday, valuing the business at 3.45 billion pounds. It listed at 315 pence.

(1 US dollar = 0.6133 British pound)

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Pravin Char

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