Tue, Jan 27, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Disney officials ‘optimistic’ over new park in Shanghai

BLOOMBERG

Walt Disney & Co said no agreement has been made yet with Chinese authorities on the opening of a Shanghai theme park, although it was “optimistic” as negotiations continued.

An application to build the park was submitted to the relevant government bodies after the Burbank, California-based company had completed a feasibility study, Disney managing director for Asia Bill Ernest said yesterday in an interview.

“We are optimistic both parties will have an ongoing dialogue,” said Ernest after the launch of Hong Kong Disneyland’s Lunar New Year celebrations. “Yet today even with the application project report, we don’t have a deal yet, and we don’t have anything agreed to yet. We are still waiting.”

Walt Disney announced it will build a 24.4 billion yuan (US$3.6 billion) theme park in association with the Shanghai government in the city’s Pudong District, its sixth globally, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported on Jan. 17. The park may open as early as 2014, the report said.

Ernest declined to give any estimate for the cost of the proposal.

“It’s still in so early a stage,” he said.

Disney stressed it would continue to develop Hong Kong Disneyland. Ernest said visitor numbers at the resort had climbed since posting first-year attendance figures that missed their target.

Opened in September 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland had attracted 14.5 million visitors in its first three years, and showed an 8 percent year-on-year gain in the 12 months ended September, said the resort’s managing director, Andrew Kam (金民豪). Now more than 15 million have visited the park, he said, adding that he expected the growth trend to continue even as the global crisis deepened.

“Our business continues to go up; right now our business is double-digit growth since our year started in October,” Ernest said. “There is definitely a slowdown in the world and we are aware of that. We are continuing building plans and prepare for that.”

Meanwhile, Kam reiterated a plan announced on Dec. 23 to expand the Hong Kong resort by one-third to help attract more visitors. Walt Disney and the city’s government, which owns a 57 percent equity stake in Hong Kong Disneyland, are in talks about funding the expansion, Kam said last month.

“Expansion is very important because we probably will reach our full capacity pretty soon, so we hope the expansion could begin sometime soon,” Kam said in a seperate interview yesterday, without giving timing details.

Ernest said he hoped the work would begin in the first-half of the year.

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