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Merlin scraps dividend ahead of takeover vote

Shareholders in the entertainment group will vote on the proposed takeover offer in early September
Merlin scraps dividend ahead of takeover vote

This set of half-year results from Merlin Entertainments (MERL) could be its last as a public company, at least for the foreseeable future. In June the owner of Madame Tussauds and the London Eye received a 455p per share offer from Berkeley Bidco, a consortium consisting of private equity firm Blackstone, together with the Danish billionaire family that owns Lego, and Canadian pension fund CPPIB, valuing the group at an enterprise value of nearly £6bn. As such, Merlin has decided not to pay a dividend, as management have recommended that shareholders accept the offer.

IC TIP: Accept at 453p

Like-for-like sales during the first half were up 2.3 per cent, driven by improved performance in midway and resort theme parks. New locations added to the churn, but visitor numbers have been helped along by the continued weakness of sterling, while fears over terrorism threats have abated to a degree as memories of the 2017 London attacks fade.

The 3 per cent improvement at resort theme parks benefitted from the addition of 230 new rooms and good Easter weekend weather. Together this helped offset tougher trading at Legoland, which recorded a like-for-like sales decline of 0.7 per cent. 

Analysts at Liberum expect adjusted pre-tax profits of £258m during 2019 giving EPS of 19.4p, increasing to £277m and 20.9p in 2020.

MERLIN ENTERTAINMENT (MERL)  
ORD PRICE:453pMARKET VALUE:£ 4.64bn
TOUCH:452-453p12-MONTH HIGH:455pLOW: 305p
DIVIDEND YIELD:nilPE RATIO:29
NET ASSET VALUE:161p*NET DEBT:131%
Half-year to 30 JuneTurnover (£m)Pre-tax profit (£m)Earnings per share (p)Dividend per share (p)
201670643.03.32.5
201776332.02.4nil
% change+8-26-27-
Ex-div:na   
Payment:na   
*Includes intangible assets of £1.02bn or 100p per share