Share prices seem only linked to the short term growth. Last year's, well profits are down, but hey we've expanded hugely and are still making money, was characterised as being bad. Medium term as a company, Merlin to me seems to be looking reasonably good, so long as they eventually stop spreading themselves so thin. A question was asked about what could happen if share prices keep falling, well maybe a leadership challenge. But I do seem to remember that when the share prices dropped last year, management people sunk a reasonable amount of money into the company.Obligatory: The above was not advice and is simply my opinion and shouldn't be used outside of general discussion of the company. There may be inaccuracies and all sorts in what I've said. Don't go buying shares unless you're happy to lose all your money.
However, some of the fairly amateurish marketing that I've seen across the Merlin companies, particularly via their online presences, look like they could start causing them problems. The Advertising Standards Agency
ruled today that a Tweet by Merlin, via Alton, was misleading and told not to do it again. The Tweet offered kids go free, for a price that seemingly didn't exist, and that it was actually cheaper to stay without kids.
I can think of a handful of similar issues across the park, which seem like they have the potential to give Merlin a headache from advertising authorities. Thorpe's randomly changing car park price, which I've noted is not always up-to-date online or via tweets. Thorpe's declaration of the park being open via website and confirmation Tweets, that then subsequently turn out to be untrue. Thorpe's declaration that all mazes will be open at midday as part of its initial Fright Night advertisements, which then quietly changed to 3pm and 6pm before anything opened. Advertisement of an attraction that will be part of the full Fright Night lineup, which was only ever intended to be there for 4 days. Then my current issue, free DigiPass with a PMAP renewal, where twice I've gone to get it and twice I've failed as they couldn't find what they needed to do it. These are all in the last 2 months and just at one park. I can also throw in Alton refusing to sell rooms with MAP discount at the start of the season, due to "technical issues". Or Legoland refusing entry to any MAP holders due to capacity limits reached before the park opened, but providing no mechanism for passholders to secure an entry. Or an Annual Pass, which only lasts 3 months and quietly has its name and Ts&C's changed to reflect this short lifetime a few weeks after it goes on sale.
Leaving yourself wide open to the potential for regulators to start sniffing around, is really not a great idea. Especially when they target the top level company, seemingly ignoring the internal structure, so it would become lots of cases against the same entity. But sadly it seems to me how the company is currently operating.