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Visitor numbers up at Merlin following £174m (US$159m) investment

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Visitor attractions operator Merlin Entertainments invested a total of £174m (US$276m, 207m euro) in its portfolio of attractions during 2011 - a year described as the "most exciting in company history" by CEO Nick Varney.

Nearly £100m (US$159m, 119m euro) of the company's total investment was spent on new developments, which included the launch of Merlin's largest ever new attraction - Legoland Florida in the US.

The year also marked the first operations in Australia following the acquisition of the Sydney Attractions Group and the announcement of plans to take over Living and Leisure Australia.

Reporting its full-year figures for the 12 months to 25 December 2011, Merlin said the number of visitors to its attractions reached 46.4m - an increase of 13.2 per cent on 2010. Like for like profits were up 7.2 per cent to £211.9m (US$337m, 252m euro).

Nick Varney said: "Last year was the most exciting in the history of Merlin Entertainments as we delivered a further step-change in the performance of the business, while significantly extending our international profile.

"The highlights have included the hugely successful opening of Legoland Florida, the addition of a whole new leg of the business as we bedded in our new Australian businesses and identified a second acquisition to add to them, and our most ambitious ever opening plans with seven new Midway attractions added across our five brands."

"In the year ahead we will develop the business further. This year we will open our sixth Legoland Park in Malaysia, further strengthening our rapidly growing business in the Asia Pacific region; we have opened a hotel at Legoland Windsor; and we will add six new Midway Attractions - three in the US, one in Japan, one in Australia and one in the UK.

"Our theme park fans in the UK will be thrilled by new rides with The Swarm at Thorpe Park and Nemesis Sub-Terra at Alton Towers, while visitors to Legoland Billund will enjoy the new Polar Land."

To read the full financial report and press release, click here.

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Visitor attractions operator Merlin Entertainments invested a total of £174m (US$276m, 207m euro) in its portfolio of attractions during 2011 - a year described as the "most exciting in company history" by CEO Nick Varney.
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