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Disney admits talks over Shanghai park


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#1 Smiley

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 02:02 PM



In a sign that a deal may be imminent, Disney officials have for the first time admitted it's negotiating to build a theme park in Shanghai, shortly after disclosing that the Lantau park contributed to the California-based entertainment giant's stellar results in the quarter ended December.
But Hong Kong tourism officials rejected fears that a new park in the mainland would significantly hurt the six-month-old Penny's Bay attraction.

Speaking Tuesday after revealing the plan that has been widely rumored for years, Walt Disney chief executive Robert Iger said: "We have ongoing discussions - ongoing and ongoing and ongoing - with the Chinese government about a park in Shanghai."

Throughout last year, Hong Kong and mainland media reported Shanghai hopes to start construction of a Disneyland theme park in 2008. But neither Iger -who described Shanghai as attractive due to its high population and rapid economic development - nor city officials would comment on a timetable Tuesday.

A Shanghai city government spokesman said: "Since building a Disney theme park is an international project, we ultimately will have to get central government approval."

While noting that no deal has yet been inked between the two sides, a Hong Kong Disneyland spokeswoman reiterated that another Chinese park would not open before 2010.

Dismissing worries that the new park will trip up the Lantau attraction just as it is getting its footing, Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents chairman Michael Wu said: "Shanghai attracts mainland tourists, while Hong Kong's visitors are from Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and so on."

Democratic Party lawmaker Fred Li, a critic of the Lantau park, said: "Since Disney is planning to open another theme park in China, it must position us and Shanghai differently, otherwise this is stupid commercial behavior."

While less sanguine, Tourism Board public relations manager Lucinda Wong said: "A Disney theme park in Shanghai would not present a significant threat to the success of Hong Kong Disneyland. China is a huge market that can easily support more than one Disneyland."

At Tuesday's conference call, Iger expressed satisfaction with Hong Kong Disneyland, which had early trouble meeting its projections for ticket sales, but had four sold-out days last week.

Disney's latest results are for its first quarter in the 2005-2006 financial year and the first full quarter to include Hong Kong Disneyland.

While the company as a whole spurted up by 7 percent, its parks and resorts revenues rose by 13 percent to US$2.4 billion (HK$18.72 billion) and the segment's operating income rocketed 51 percent, to US$375 million.

The Standard