Merlin hits top of Buy Out league table

Two travel and tourism companies feature in the 2009 Sunday Times Buyout Track 10 Biggest league table.

Merlin Entertainments Group, which is the world’s second largest visitor attractions operator and has a portfolio of attractions including Madam Tussauds, Legoland, the London Eye and Alton Towers, tops the list with profit growth of 208% over the last two years.

Its full-year 2007 profit was £168.2 million, up from £17.8 million in 2005.

Founded in 1999, it employed 8,531 staff in 2007. Private equity backers are Blackstone (48%), Kirkbi Invest (22%), Dubai International Capital (18%) and management (12%).

UK holiday resort operator Center Parcs came seventh, with annual profit growth of 31% over the last two years. It reported a profit of £50.2 million for the 2007-2008 financial year compared with a profit of £29.2 milion for the 2005-2006 financial year. Private equity backers are Blackstone (98%) and management (2%).

The company was founded in 1968 and employs 6,124 staff. It operates holiday parks in Cumbria, Suffolk, Wiltshire and Nottinghamshire. Plans have already been revealed for a fifth village in Bedfordshire.

Blackstone paid £265 million for the business and £825 million for its separate property business.

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