London leisure firm eyes S'pore Flyer

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Flyer may be getting a touch of British magic to keep it turning.

Merlin Entertainments Group, the British firm behind the iconic London Eye, a 135m-tall Ferris wheel on the bank of the River Thames, has said that it is considering buying the financially troubled Singapore attraction.

The firm wants to expand further into Asia, and the Flyer is a "very attractive product with a great view of the Singapore skyline", its strategy director David Bridgford told local media on Wednesday.

If a deal is signed, the group may set up a Madame Tussauds wax museum to boost the Flyer's popularity, he said.

Merlin owns and operates 14 such wax museums around the world, including in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The 165m-tall Flyer, which is the world's tallest observation wheel, has been put up for sale, with ads appearing in newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal in the United States.

This was after Singapore Flyer Pte Ltd, the company behind the five-year-old attraction, was placed under receivership in May.

Corporate recovery firm Ferrier Hodgson, which has been appointed the receiver by the company's creditors to settle its outstanding loans, said it has received an "overwhelming response from parties both local and overseas" for the Flyer.

Mr Tim Reid, a partner at Ferrier Hodgson, told The Straits Times on Thursday: "We are now entering a due diligence process and there is similarly a large number of parties undergoing due diligence."

Merlin would be an "ideal owner" of the Flyer, said Mr Alexander Melchers, director of trading firm C. Melchers GmbH & Co's Singapore branch.

His firm was a founding shareholder of the Singapore landmark before selling its share five years ago.

"Merlin is a very experienced and very professional tourism group, and I think that the Madame Tussauds concept is a great idea to complement the Flyer as an attraction," he said.

He added that the group has "the wits, creativity and industry know-how" to bring in new complementary attractions over time to rebuild interest in the Flyer.

Resorts World Singapore, which operates a casino and resort on Sentosa, could be an appropriate local investor, he said. "RWS could use the Flyer as a hub and collection point for tourists, to bring them to Sentosa."