* Like-for-like revenue up 1.3 pct, short of consensus
* Says city-centre sites struggling, will hit margins
* Barclays downgrades full-year profit forecast
* Shares down 4.3 pct
(Adds CEO comments, shares)
By Paul Sandle
LONDON, Sept 29 Merlin Entertainments,
the British theme park operator fined this week for a
rollercoaster crash, lowered its full-year core earnings margin
forecast on Thursday due to weaker trading at its city centre
attractions like Madame Tussauds waxworks.
Security concerns after attacks in Europe were deterring
families and school groups from London, despite the weaker pound
making the city better value for overseas visitors, Chief
Executive Nick Varney said.
The world's second-biggest visitor attractions group behind
Walt Disney said its London sites, which include the London
Dungeon and London Eye, said its earnings margin for its city
centre attractions would be in the "mid thirties" this year, a
downgrade from its previous expectation of about 40 percent.
Year-to-date revenue at the group's indoor attractions fell
0.4 percent on a like-for-like basis, it said. But its resort
theme parks performed better, helped by improving visitor
numbers to Britain's Alton Towers.
Five people were seriously injured in a crash at the park in
June 2015. Merlin was fined 5 million pounds ($6.50 million)
this week, after pleading guilty in April to breaching health
and safety rules.
In September last year, it said it might be another two
years before visitor numbers there recovered to previous levels.
"We saw our mainstream market of families and thrill seekers
coming back," Varney said on Thursday.
"Our Resort Theme Parks Operating Group is now showing year
on year revenue growth, reflecting the ongoing recovery in
trading at Alton Towers."
But London in particular continued to suppress overall
trading performance, he said.
Its Madame Tussauds waxworks in Shanghai also had a tough
summer after the Shanghai Disney Resort opened in June, he said.
"We are going to bear down on operating costs, but in
markets like London and Shanghai we need to spend more on
marketing to hold our share," he said.
The group reported 1.3 percent like-for-like growth in the
38 weeks to Sept.17, short of forecasts of 1.5 percent.
Its shares, which had risen 23 percent in the last 12
months, were trading down 4.6 percent at 448 pence after the
earnings update, which prompted Barclays to reduce its earnings
per share forecast by 3 percent to 20 pence.
Revenue from its Legoland parks grew 2.2 percent on a
like-for-like basis, missing market forecasts, as concerns about
the Zika virus hit demand at its Florida site.
($1 = 0.7698 pounds)
(Editing by Kate Holton and Susan Thomas)