9% gain on stock market for Legoland owner's debut

 9% gain on stock market for Legoland owner's debut Merlin Entertainment's ultimate dream came true as it raised £957m yesterday by listing on the London Stock Exchange, with its shares leaping 9 per cent on its debut.

Shares floated at 315p and climbed the ladder to 355p before the market closed at 347p to value the group at £3.4billion.

About 12.5 per cent of the shares went to retail investors, who will be able to use them to claim a discount on the Merlin annual pass into its attractions.

The business behind attractions ranging from Legoland (left) to Warwick Castle and Chessington World of Adventures joined the stock marketon Friday, and the shares jumped 10% to 347p, valuing the business at more than £3.5bn.

Merlin Entertainment is the world's second largest visitor attractions operator after Walt Disney Co. It also controls Madame Tussauds, the London Eye, and other overseas attractions.

The newly listed company set its sale price at 315p and the offer for 30% of the firm was nine times oversubscribed.

Chief Executive Nick Varney said, "People are looking at Merlin hopefully as something which has got that relatively unique combination of a resilient underlying business that is highly cash generative, with a strong brand portfolio that is providing a very strong growth story."

Next year the company plans to expand in both the United States and China. It plans to include Madame Tussauds in San Francisco and Beijing. It is also in the process of developing a Legoland park in Dubai and prospective sites in Japan and South Korea.

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