Merlin plans London debut
Merlin Entertainments, whose attractions include the Madame Tussauds waxworks and Legoland theme parks, plans to sell at least 20 percent of its shares in a stock market debut in London. The private equity-backed firm, which operates 99 attractions in 22 countries, yesterday said it would raise ￡200 million (US$324 million) from the sale of new shares to reduce debt. Its owners, the Danish investment company Kirkbi A/S that controls Lego Group and private equity firms Blackstone Group and CVC, will also sell some of their holding, the company said. Merlin is the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator behind Walt Disney.
Royal Philips profits rise
Royal Philips NV, the world’s biggest light maker, says third-quarter profits rose on cost-cutting, as sales declined, but margins improved. The company has shed 4,900 jobs over the past year, more than 4 percent of its 114,300 total. Net profit was 281 million euros (US$384 million), compared with 105 million euros in the same period a year ago. Sales fell 3.4 percent to 5.62 billion euros, hurt by the strong euro. In Philips’ lighting division, strong sales of LEDs and fewer charges led to a 140 million euro profit, from a 14 million loss in the same period a year ago.
Myanmar pipeline opens
A pipeline pumping natural gas from Myanmar to China has gone fully operational, state-run Global Times said yesterday. The project, stretching more than 2,500km from western Myanmar to southwest China, will help the world’s second-largest economy feed its growing energy needs. The pipeline was first launched in July after three years of construction. The added delivery of 12 billion cubic meters a year will cut gas prices and reduce coal use, the newspaper said.
Ex-UBS executive arrested
A former top executive at Swiss bank UBS wanted in the US for allegedly helping wealthy Americans avoid paying tax was arrested in Italy over the weekend, the Bologna police said yesterday. The US declared Raoul Weil a fugitive in early 2009 after the former head of UBS’ wealth management business failed to surrender to US authorities on charges he conspired to help 17,000 Americans hide assets worth US$20 billion in Swiss bank accounts. That year, UBS was fined US$780 million and agreed to hand over the names of about 4,450 US clients with secret Swiss bank accounts to avoid facing criminal charges. The deal with the US marked a historic break with Switzerland’s tradition of bank secrecy.
Caracas detains sportsmen
Venezuela has detained six race car and motocross drivers whom it says cheated the government in a US$60 million currency fraud, local media said on Sunday. The six were not named in the interview. The government has had strict currency controls in place since 2003. The US dollar can only be bought at the Venezuelan Central Bank and government currency exchange office CADIVI. The government is alleging that sportsmen — who routinely deal with CADIVI because they make hard currency abroad and also need access to US dollars to compete internationally — presented falsified requests for US dollars at the official rate, only to resell them on the black market.