Top attractions change hands in £10.4 million deal

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Three of the UK’s top visitor attractions have been sold to a European leisure park operator in a deal worth £10.4 million.

Blackpool Zoo, the Aquarium of the Lakes on the shores of Lake Windermere and The Oceanarium in Bournemouth have been acquired by the Spanish company, Parques Reunidos S.A.U.

Clearwater Corporate Finance advised MICE Group Plc on the sale of its leisure arm, Grant Leisure, which will allow the group to focus on its core experiential marketing services business. Grant Leisure, a wholly owned subsidiary of MICE, made an operating profit of £1 million on sales of £6.1 million in the year ended 28 February 2007. These attractions have over 700,000 visitors per annum. MICE will use the proceeds of the sale to reduce debt.

MICE is an international marketing services group providing experiential marketing solutions for the world’s leading brands. The group comprises 64 companies and employs 1,700 staff at more than 40 locations worldwide including Europe, the Middle East and North America. MICE is listed on the London Stock Exchange and has an annual turnover of £180 million.

MICE provides marketing services for the 25 of the world’s 100 most valuable brands. The core skills of MICE are in creative and brand communications, sponsorship and event marketing, conferences and exhibitions, training and sales promotions, workplace interiors and retail design, leisure environments and museums.

Parques Reunidos is one of Europe’s leading leisure industry operators, with 22 parks throughout Spain, Belgium, Norway, France, Italy and Argentina. Attractions include Madrid’s zoo and aquarium, the Mirabilandia theme park in Italy, Bobbejaanland in Belgium and the L’Oceanogáfic aquarium in Valencia, Spain. Parques Reunidos recently completed a secondary buy-out backed by Candover.

Clearwater’s team comprised partner Andy Moore, director Gareth Iley and assistant director Katie Wood. Legal advice was provided by David Stevenson and Michael Lakin at Pinsent Masons.

Andy Moore of Clearwater Corporate Finance said: “Through our international network, Clearwater was able to identify a strategic buyer for these three top attractions. We were delighted to help a Midlands Plc to focus on the further growth of its core marketing businesses, while giving Parques Reunidos a strong foothold in the UK market.”