UK theme parks operator Merlin Entertainments today confirmed long-awaited plans for a listing on the London Stock Exchange.

The initial public offering of at least 20% of the business will help the Madame Tussauds and Thorpe Park owner to move to the next stage of its development including a Legoland Park in Dubai and potential sites in Japan, South Korea and China.

Proceeds from the primary offering of £200 million will be used to reduce net debt and pay for associated costs.

Merlin owners, the Danish investment company Kirkbi that controls Lego group and private equity firms Blackstone Group and CVC, will also sell some of their holding, the company said.

The company confirmed that former Thomson Travel Group chief executive Charles Gurassa, deputy chairman of easyJet, is to join as an independent non-executive director together with Starwood Hotels Asia Pacific non-executive chairman Miguel Ko.

Group revenue increased by 11.1% to £888.7 million in the year to August, supported by like-for-like growth of 7.1%.

The company believes it is well positioned with “clear competitive advantages in an attractive, growing market driven by growth in leisure time, international tourism, and the short break market”.

Merlin is second only to Disney in its field and operates 99 attractions in 22 countries. They attracted more than 54 million visitors last year, generating total revenue of £1,074.3 million and underlying EBITDA of £346 million.

CEO Nick Varney said:  “Merlin Entertainments comes to the market with a consistent record of strong growth in both revenues and profits and bright prospects for the future.

We have successfully followed a clear and proven strategy to build a high-growth international family entertainment business, built on strong brands and a portfolio of attractions balanced by geographies, products and demographics.

“Our very strong trading performance so far this year, with revenues over 11% ahead of 2012, is a further reflection of this.”

He added: “Delivering memorable experiences to our millions of visitors is our passion and we see a world of opportunity ahead of us.

“Our experienced team has the ability and ambition to deliver on our plans, as we develop our existing businesses and roll out Merlin’s unique portfolio of leisure brands internationally.

“The IPO will provide Merlin with the platform for our next stage of development and allow us to plan for the longer term. As such we are very excited about this next chapter of our story, and look forward to creating value for our shareholders and more magic for our customers.”