February 26, 2015 / 8:05 AM / 4 years ago

Legoland operator Merlin sees profits surge

LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Merlin Entertainments the British operator of attractions including Madame Tussauds waxworks and Legoland, said it was upbeat on prospects for 2015 as it posted a better than expected rise in annual profit.

Merlin, the world’s No.2 operator of visitor attractions behind Walt Disney, said on Thursday pretax profit rose 35 percent to 249 million pounds ($387 million), ahead of analysts’ average forecast of 240 million pounds, according to Reuters data.

Sales at attractions open over a year rose 7.1 percent with total revenue up 9.6 percent to 1.25 billion pounds, helped by a rise in visitors, new openings and stellar trade at its Legoland Parks on the back of “The Lego Movie” last year.

Merlin has ambitious expansion plans, with new Legoland Parks set to open in Dubai, Japan and Korea by 2017 and a raft of new short-stay sites such as Dungeons, Sea Life Centres and a new Shrek-themed attraction also slated.

“2015 is expected to be another year of growth for Merlin, with positive underlying trading and a strong new business development pipeline,” Merlin boss Nick Varney said.

Shares in the company, up a third since listing on the London stock exchange in November 2013, were up 1.8 percent at 426.9 pence at 0804 GMT.

$1 = 0.6439 pounds Reporting by Neil Maidment; editing by James Davey

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