Merlin see profits rise despite Alton Towers accident

Smiler ride at Alton Towers Image copyright PA
Image caption The crash left 16 people trapped on the ride for about four and a half hours

Profits at theme parks operator Merlin Entertainments have edged up despite last summer's Alton Towers accident which left five people injured.

The company, which also owns Legoland and the London Eye, said group pre-tax profits rose 0.3% to £250m from 2014.

Merlin said Alton Towers saw a "significant" fall in visitor numbers after the accident, which resulted in the park shutting for four days.

Chief executive Nick Varney said it had been "a challenging year".

Like-for-like sales at the group's resort theme parks division, which includes Alton Towers, fell 12.4%.

However, visitor numbers across the group rose 0.3% to 62.9 million, while revenues rose 2.3% to £1.27bn.

Mr Varney said in a statement that the figures showed Merlin had "delivered a robust performance in 2015. However, 2015 was a difficult year for Merlin following the accident at Alton Towers early in the summer season.

"The safety of our guests and employees must always come first and we have sought to learn every possible lesson to help ensure there is no repeat of what happened on 2 June."

Separately, Merlin announced that it was investing about $34.4m (£24.6m) in the Big Bus Tours company, giving it a stake of about 15% in the business. Big Bus provides hop-on city tours around the world.

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