Britain's Merlin Entertainments, the tourist attraction company, beat forecasts with a 6.2% rise in 2018 core earnings, driven by a strong performance at its theme parks business.

The company said its outlook for 2019 was "positive". 

The operator of Madame Tussauds waxworks, the London Eye and Alton Towers made underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of £494m for the year to December 29. 

That topped the £488m expected by analysts and was up from £474m a year earlier. 

The world's second-biggest visitor attractions group behind Walt Disney said it welcomed a record 67 million visitors, up 1.4%, while revenue rose 5.9% to £1.69 billion. 

Its other sites include Legoland, Sea Life and the London Dungeons. 

Revenue at its Resort Theme Parks division grew 9.1% and was up 6.4% at Legoland. 

The Midway Attractions division saw growth of 1.1% with a continued recovery in London trading. 

Merlin said trading in 2019 had been in line with expectations. "Our 2019 outlook is positive and unchanged," it said.

About 70% of Merlin's core annual earnings are generated in the second half of the year and it makes two thirds of its annual profit outside of Britain.