The annual figures indicate that Merlin is ready to list on the London Stock Exchange when market conditions are right, with some experts predicting the move in the next few months.
Like-for-like revenue was up 12.9% (to £238.6m) despite the global recession last year.
Merlin's vast attraction empire is almost completely available for corporate use, making it a go-to firm for many event organisers.
"During 2009, as well as delivering strong increases in both sales and profits, we have reduced debt leverage, leaving the group better positioned than ever before," said chief executive Nick Varney.
"And since the end of the year we have continued to develop the business, most importantly with the announcement of our multi-million dollar investment in the biggest family tourist destination in the world, the planned opening of Legoland Florida."
Industry sources said Merlin had planned a listing earlier this year but shelved it because of economic turbulence.
Separately, Merlin's Sealife London Aquarium has opened a 'Rainforests of the World' section.
The area contains more than 4,000 marine animals in 13 themed displays featuring forest foliage, mists and waterfalls. Animals in the exhibit include a pair of six-foot West African dwarf crocodiles, 15 poison arrow frogs and 30 piranhas.
To add a comment register and let us know your thoughts.