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Merlin records weak summer at UK theme parks after Smiler accident

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After suggesting that the rollercoaster crash that seriously injured four people in June could affect profits by up to £50m (US$77.6m, €70m), Alton Towers operator Merlin Entertainment has confirmed a notable slump after weak trade through the UK’s summer months.

“The trends we reported at the half year have continued throughout the summer,” said Merlin chief executive Nick Varney, reiterating the comments made in July. “Although difficult to assess at this stage, we continue to believe that there may be an ongoing adverse impact on the resort theme parks operating group profitability in 2016.”

Thanks to strong trade for Merlin’s Legoland theme parks in North America and Germany, group like-for-like sales for the 36 weeks ended 5 September were up 0.3 per cent. However, this still reflects a slow in growth which was up 2.8 per cent at the halfway point of 2015. A weak Euro also contributed to lost revenue at Merlin’s London attractions, which have high visitor numbers from the continent.

Despite its woes in the UK theme park sector, Merlin is predicting profit before tax to be “broadly in line” with 2014’s results, which came in at £249m (US$372.5m, €329.2m) for the year.

Merlin has made several investments into its UK theme parks this year, which helped to offset a drop in visitor number, including the launch of the Enchanted Village accommodation at Alton Towers, the Aztec hotel at Chessington World of Adventures and a new Lego “Friends” themed area at Legoland Windsor.

A report as a result of an inquiry into the Smiler incident is expected on 24 September.

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After suggesting that the rollercoaster crash that seriously injured four people in June could affect profits by up to £50m (US$77.6m, €70m), Alton Towers operator Merlin Entertainment has confirmed a notable slump after weak trade through the UK’s summer months.
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