By Reuters

Madame Tussauds owner Merlin said on Friday it had agreed to be acquired by the investment vehicle of Lego’s founding family and private equity firm Blackstone Group LP in a deal valuing the company and its debt at nearly 6 billion pounds ($7.6 billion).

The deal to buy Merlin Entertainments, which also operates Legoland theme parks around the world, values Merlin shares at 455 pence each, giving the firm an enterprise value of 5.905 billion pounds.

download 3 1 - Madame Tussauds owner Merlin to be bought by Lego family and Blackstone

Tourists line up to buy tickets for Madame Tussauds beside a wax figure of soccer player C. Ronaldo in Hong Kong, China August 4, 2017. (REUTERS/Bobby Yip/MANILA BULLETIN)

The move will be one of the biggest private equity deals in Europe in recent years and comes as buyout firms are flush with record amounts of cash to invest.

Merlin shares, which closed at 395 pence on Thursday, were expected to rise between 12% and 15% on Friday, traders said.

Merlin will be 50% owned by Kirkbi, the private investment company of Lego’s Kirk Kristiansen family, and 50% owned by Blackstone and Canadian pension fund CPPIB.

“Following an unsolicited approach by a consortium of investors, and after rejecting a number of their proposals, the Merlin Independent Directors believe this offer represents an opportunity for Merlin shareholders to realize value for their investment in cash at an attractive valuation,” Merlin Chairman John Sunderland said in a statement.

“We are therefore unanimously recommending it to our shareholders.”

The deal is expected to complete in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The deal comes after activist investor ValueAct Capital last month urged Merlin, which also operates Legoland and the Alton Towers theme park in Britain, to take itself private.

In an open letter, ValueAct said at the time that the level of investment needed in the company meant it would be better off returning to private ownership.

A source familiar with the matter said that the initial, unsolicited offer from the consortium valued the firm at 425 pence, and discussions about a takeover predated the ValueAct letter.


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