October 21, 2015 / 6:29 AM / 3 years ago

Merlin to open Legoland in Shanghai as part of China growth plans

A Lego figure representing Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is placed in front of the Brandenburg Gate made of Lego bricks, in Legoland in Berlin, Germany, June 18, 2015. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will visit Berlin next week. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

LONDON (Reuters) - A branch of the Legoland amusement park is to open in Shanghai under a likely $300 million (194 million pounds) joint venture investment by Britain’s Merlin Entertainments Plc (MERL.L), announced during the state visit to Britain of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Under a deal agreed with investment firm China Media Capital (CMC), Merlin, the world’s second-biggest visitor attractions group behind Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), plans to open a Legoland branch in the Shanghai area, as well as additional brands throughout China.

Legoland is aimed at younger children and features rides as well as models of landmarks from around the world, made of millions of the Lego bricks whose popularity as toys has been recently boosted by the success of the Lego Movie.

Merlin Chief Executive Nick Varney told Reuters the Legoland park in Shanghai would be a similarly sized investment to the $300 million parks it is building in Japan, Korea and Dubai.

Merlin will also develop some of its existing brands, such as The Dungeons, which showcase murky historic events and scenes, for the Chinese market, as well new brands including DreamWorks Tours, Kung Fu Panda Adventures and others.

The Merlin announcement came during Xi’s state visit to Britain, promoted as boosting business ties between the two countries and promised to involve more than 30 billion pounds worth of deals.

The company already operates five attractions in China including Madame Tussauds and the Chang Feng Ocean World aquarium. It had also announced plans for three further attractions to open in the next 18 months, including a smaller Legoland site.

Editing by Jason Neely and David Holmes

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