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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 June, 2005, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Ailing Lego nears theme-park sale
Legoland Windsor
Lego is selling the parks to raise much needed extra cash
Toymaker Lego, currently mired in financial difficulties amid slowing sales, is close to selling its four theme parks.

The Danish firm has, however, rebutted media reports that it had already got as far as final talks with one buyer.

Lego was responding to speculation that it was about to sell the parks to US private equity firm Blackstone for $460m (253m).

Lego instead said it expected to complete a deal by the end of summer.

The firm is selling the parks after it recently saw its overall losses double.

Lego has said that the sale would free up cash to support its core toy business.

Previous takeover

"The Lego group refutes rumours that a sale of the parks has taken place or that final negotiations with one bidder are underway," it said.

Christine Hamilton at the London Dungeon back in March
Blackstone recently bought the London Dungeon attraction

Lego has four Legoland themeparks: San Diego, California; Windsor in the UK; Guenzburg in Germany; and Billund, Denmark.

Blackstone, the New York-based company said to be leading the race to buy the parks, has already expressed an interest in buying the Legoland sites.

It has also only recently taken over the company which owns popular London tourist attraction London Dungeon.

On Monday, 23 May, Blackstone announced that it had bought Merlin Entertainment for 102.5m. Merlin also owns 19 Sea Life centres across Europe.

Back in April Lego announced that its annual net losses had more than doubled to 1.9bn Danish kroner ($328m; 174.9m) - only the fourth loss in the family-owned firm's 72-year history.

In recent years, Lego has unsuccesfully tried to diversify away from its core building bricks.

It invested heavily in a host of new markets, including computer games, baby products, camping goods and even shoes, few of which have performed to expectations.

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