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Last Updated: Monday, 23 May, 2005, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
London Dungeon in 103m US buyout
Man dressed as Devil
Tourists aren't always looking for the art galleries and museums
Merlin Entertainment, the operator of one of London's most gruesome tourist attractions, has been sold to a US firm for 102.5m ($187m).

Investment firm Blackstone bought the company that runs the London Dungeon because it expects further mergers in Europe's tourist attraction industry.

The firm also has dungeons in Edinburgh, York and Hamburg, Germany.

It owns Sea Life, the Earth Explorer site in Ostend, and has said it is interested in buying Legoland.

Dark days

The dungeon concept takes visitors through the more unsavoury side of a city's history, be it plague, torture or famous murderers.

At Sea Life, the focus at 19 bases across Europe is on the underwater world, while Earth Explorer is science-based and gives visitors the chance to conduct experiments.

Competition in the industry is fierce, however, with rivals such as The Tussauds Group fighting to attract London's visitors.

Some companies such as Lego have decided to cut their losses and are selling their unprofitable theme parks.

The Legoland parks are in San Diego, California; Windsor in the UK; Guenzburg in Germany; and Billund, Denmark.

Merlin said its attractions had six million visitors in the 12 months through February 2005, an increase on the year before.

Turnover for the year was 44.9m.

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