Madame Tussauds owner Merlin posts rise in profits

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Merlin Entertainments, whose attractions include the Madame Tussauds waxworks and Legoland theme parks, said it was upbeat on prospects for 2014 as it posted a 13 percent rise in annual earnings in its maiden results as a listed company.

The group, which floated on the London Stock Exchange in November, said on Thursday underlying core earnings for the year to Dec. 28 rose to 390 million pounds ($648.86 million), slightly ahead of market forecasts of 386 million pounds.

Group revenue rose 10.9 percent to 1.19 billion pounds and was up 6.7 percent on a like-for-like basis.

“2014 should see another year of good underlying revenue and profit growth,” Merlin Chief Executive Nick Varney said.

Shares in Merlin, the world’s No.2 visitor attraction operator behind Walt Disney with 100 attractions across four continents, have since risen 18 percent above its 315 pence offer price to 371p, valuing the business at 3.8 billion pounds.

This week Merlin took its short-stay brands, which include London Eye, Dungeons and Sea Life, to six with a tie-up with Dreamworks Animation’s that will see it open six attractions based on blockbuster movie franchise Shrek, with the first set for London in 2015.