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Merlin Entertainments Group acquires Sydney Attractions Group from Village Roadshow

Merlin Entertainments Group acquires Sydney Attractions Group from Village Roadshow
January 20, 2011

UK-based Merlin Entertainments Group has acquired the tourism and attractions arm of Village Roadshow in a deal worth $115 million.

The deal includes the Sydney Attractions Group and Auckland's Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World and marks Merlin's entry into the Australian and New Zealand attractions markets.

As a result of the deal, Merlin, Europe's leading and the world's second-largest visitor attraction operator, will operate three of Sydney's top tourist attractions -Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World and the Sydney Tower Observatory and Skywalk.

Other assets include Manly Oceanworld in Sydney, the Hamilton Island Wildlife Park in Queensland, and Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World.

Following the completion of the acquisition, due in the coming weeks, Merlin is committed to a multi-million dollar investment programme under which, over time, it plans to rebrand the assets as appropriate using its iconic global attraction brands. That means that in the future the aquarium assets will operate as Sea Life, the world's biggest aquarium brand; while Merlin will convert the Sydney Tower Observatory to its 'Eye brand', its first use outside of the UK. Additionally, plans are in place to develop two more of the company's global 'Midway' attractions - a Madame Tussauds and a Legoland Discovery Centre.

The entry into Australia and New Zealand will significantly strengthen Merlin's position in the wider Asia Pacific region, where the group has already established Madame Tussauds attractions in Hong Kong, Shanghai and most recently in Bangkok, which opened in December.

Merlin will also be opening a major Legoland Park in Malaysia in 2012, in partnership with Iskandar Investment Behar.

While Village Roadshow has sold its assets to Merlin, the two companies have entered into an understanding to explore further attraction developments in the Australian and wider Asia pacific markets.

Explaining the deal, Merlin Chief Executive Nick Varney, told Australasian Leisure Management, "this is an important step for Merlin, significantly strengthening our presence in the dynamic Asia Pacific region and bringing our strong international brands to another set of iconic established tourist attractions. Merlin has a strong track record of successfully growing the assets it buys and we are confident that our proven formula will work in this exciting market.

"The deal means that in Sydney, one of the world's leading cities, we will have a 'cluster' of leading visitor attractions to match our strength in the London and Berlin markets. This will be the perfect springboard as we work to continue the roll out of the Sea Life, Madame Tussauds, Eye and Legoland brands in the Asia Pacific region, complementing our existing strength in Western Europe and North America."

Village Chief Executive Graham Burke added "we are very excited to form a strategic alliance with Merlin because they are both entrepreneurial and have some outstanding brands.

"This transaction also includes an understanding to consider developing brands such as Legoland Discovery Centres in partnership in Australia and Asia. We are very excited to form a strategic alliance with Merlin because they are both entrepreneurial and have some outstanding brands."

The sale is subject to regulatory approvals and third-party consents and is expected to be concluded in the next two months.

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