Merlin Entertainments PLC, the owner of Legoland and London Eye, pursues a deal with SeaWorld, which specializes in marine parks and is based in Orlando, Florida. Shares of the company rose 3.4% in London on Thursday.
Merlin also runs Madame Tussauds wax museums across the world and the Thorpe Park Resort in southern England. As tourism in London slows after the terror attacks in the city, the company has been trying to expand its overseas holdings.
Recently, SeaWorld has been exploring options including a sale, and it has attracted interests from other buyers. According to insiders, Merlin was interested in part of SeaWorld’s business. In August, the company said that it might only be interested in SeaWorld's Busch Gardens assets, which is a theme park with an African flavour in Florida.
“It takes two parties to do a deal so we do not know what SeaWorld's intentions are but we do believe that those assets [Busch Gardens] are interesting,” Anne-Francoise Nesmes, the Chief Financial Officer of Merlin, said in August.
Expanding in the United States will help Merlin to build on the over 70% of profits it had already earned outside the U.K. However, the deal for Busch Garden will risk swelling debt of Merlin to over three times EBITDA, which is a level that will make investors worried.
Merlin hasn’t commented regarding this news. “We do not comment on speculation or rumors”, SeaWorld said.