Source AP ©

Merlin Entertainments Group buys Tussauds Group

EU claimed theme park operator Merlin Entertainments Group could buy the Tussauds Group, the owner of the Madame Tussauds wax museum and the London Eye, to form Europe's largest operator of visitor attractions.

Based in Luxembourg, Merlin is part of the U.S.-based private equity Blackstone Group that controls a range of theme parks across Europe and the United States, such as the London Dungeon, Sea Life and Legoland.

The European Commission said it saw no major antitrust problems because the two companies only compete directly in southeast England, where they both own theme parks and zoos, and in London where they operate tourist attractions. The combined company will continue to face strong rivals with significant market shares, it said.

Merlin Entertainments Group, which already operates 28 attractions in eight European countries under the Sea Life, Dungeons and Earth Explorer brands, is currently the second largest visitor attraction business in Europe with some 12 million visitors per year.

Its larger rival, Tussauds, owns the British theme parks Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Germany's Heide Park.

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