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Thu 29th Sep 2016 - Merlin Entertainments reports 3% like-for-like growth in theme parks business as Alton Towers trading starts to recover
Merlin Entertainments reports 3% like-for-like growth in theme parks business as Alton Towers trading starts to recover: Merlin Entertainments has reported 3% like-for-like growth in its theme parks business for the 38 weeks to 17 September with trading at Alton Towers starting to recover following last summer’s rollercoaster crash. However, the company said the absolute volume numbers still remained some way down below the 2014 level. Merlin Entertainments reported year to date revenue growth of 10.6% reflecting the continued strong contribution from new accommodation and attractions and the positive translational impact from non-sterling revenue due to the group’s strong international footprint. Like for like revenue growth in the period was 1.3% reflecting the emerging recovery in its theme park business offset by difficult trading conditions in several key markets across the estate. Chief executive Nick Varney said: “Merlin continues to deliver overall revenue growth despite challenging trading conditions in certain key markets, testament to a diversified portfolio and a strong new business development strategy across all three operating groups. Trading across the existing estate has been mixed. Our resort theme parks operating group is now showing year-on-year revenue growth, reflecting the ongoing recovery in trading at Alton Towers. In Midway Attractions, London in particular continues to suppress overall trading performance as we are yet to see any significant benefit from the depreciation of sterling, while the growth in Legoland Parks reflects a tough comparative period in 2015 and a more challenging market in Florida. On Tuesday we were fined £5m for a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act related to ‘The Smiler’ incident at Alton Towers in June 2015. From the beginning the company has accepted full responsibility for the accident and strived to support all those injured in every way possible. We have learned every lesson from what happened last year and made a number of technical and procedural improvements to make sure that an accident like this cannot happen again. Both the judge and the Health and Safety Executive acknowledge we have a good overall track record in safety and we remain committed to achieving the highest standards in this area. In February of this year, we set out our new business development milestones for 2020. As previously stated, we continue to make good progress against these in terms of both new openings and pipeline development. Accordingly, we are excited to announce today the pilot of a new, internally developed brand: ‘Little Big City’ – an imaginative recasting of the ever popular miniature world attraction format. Launching first in Berlin in 2017, ‘Little Big City’ will be the new and interactive way to experience a city’s history, culture and individuality, using a unique combination of traditional and modern special effects, storytelling and model cityscapes. The successful launch of this new brand will create further optionality within the Midway roll-out programme to support the delivery of our 2020 strategic milestone of opening an additional 40 Midway attractions. We remain pleased with progress in Legoland parks and resort theme parks and expect continued growth in these two operating groups, reflecting strong product momentum and the ongoing recovery at Alton Towers. Despite specific headwinds in the Midway Attractions operating group, we remain positive on the medium term outlook, reflecting the strength of the brands, diversity of the portfolio and confidence in the strategy.”

Stonegate wins top employer award: Stonegate Pub Company has been crowned Best Large Employer at the Scottish Training Federation Awards beating off competition from other shortlisted companies Greene King and Scotrail. The awards were announced at the STF annual conference at the Crieff Hydro in Crieff, during a ceremony hosted by Scottish TV presenter Kaye Adams and BBC Weather presenter, Judith Ralston. The award acknowledged the company’s development career pathways and training initiatives, which has amongst other achievements recently seen their 100th deputy graduate to general manager as a result of its Accelerator programme. Tim Painter, human resources director for Stonegate said: “This award is a further endorsement of our commitment to providing first class training and developing our own talent. It is particularly rewarding to be recognised by the Scottish Training Federation, given our expansion and significant investment in Scottish pubs and in creating jobs for Scotland. I would particularly like to thank our General Managers in Scotland for their enthusiastic support of our award winning career pathway, which was recognised on Tuesday evening.” Ellen Milne, a duty manager with Stonegate Pub Company was nominated by Forth Valley College and shortlisted for another award, Apprentice of the Year.

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