x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dubai Legoland theme park on track for 2016 opening

Merlin Entertainments, one of the world’s largest theme park operators, is also working on Legoland projects in South Korea, the United States and China.

Above, the Lego character President Business in a scene from The Lego Movie. AP Photo / Warner Bros
Above, the Lego character President Business in a scene from The Lego Movie. AP Photo / Warner Bros

Dubai’s Legoland theme park is on track to be completed by 2016, said its operator, Merlin Entertainments.

The company, one of the world’s largest theme park operators, is also working on Legoland projects in South Korea, the United States and China on the back of an increase in sales at its parks following the global success of The Lego Movie in the first half of the year.

Its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation for six Legoland Parks in Europe, the US and Malaysia increased 31.7 per cent to £50 million (Dh309.6m) in the first half compared with £38m in the same period last year.

Under a management contract for Dubai’s Legoland, Merlin will receive management fees of US$3m to $4m a year from 2016 after the park’s opening. Between last year and 2015, it was expected to receive development fees of $2.5m annually.

Meraas Holding is the master developer of the project.

Meraas and the Texas-based Six Flags Entertainment in April announced a deal to open a leisure facility in Jebel Ali in 2017. Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari’s (IMG) Worlds of Adventure theme park is also shaping up in City of Arabia off Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road in Dubai and was scheduled to open this year.

“There were a number of theme parks planned [before the] global financial crisis, however, some of them turned out to be marketing gimmicks to sell residential property,” said Deepak Jain, JLL’s head of strategic consulting for the Middle East and North Africa. “We believe that theme parks or entertainment parks widen the tourism offering of Dubai and help increase the length of stay for tourists and attract families.”

In June, Merlin announced it would open a Legoland park in Nagoya, Japan, in 2017. The company estimated that Japan’s theme park market was about £4 billion, the world’s second largest.

Next year, Merlin will open the indoor Legoland Discovery Centre in Istanbul as well as facilities in Orlando, London and Osaka.

The group’s entertainment parks attracted 27.5 million visitors in the first six months, up by 6.6 per cent. Group net income was £29m in the first half, up from an £11m loss a year earlier.

“The first half performance was supported by the more favourable weather in Northern Europe and a particularly strong Legoland performance, which was fuelled partly by effective marketing around the internationally successful Lego movie,” said Nick Varney, Merlin’s chief executive.

The Lego Movie had grossed $400m around the world by the end of March and a sequel was the works, according to Warner Bro, the film’s distributor.

An exception to Merlin’s positive results was in Thailand, where political unrest in Bangkok affected sales at the Siam Ocean World aquarium and Madame Tussauds, the company said.

Merlin’s shares were trading 1.1 per cent lower in London at 347 pence early yesterday.

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