Euro Disney may make room for a partner

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The Independent Online
PARIS - Euro Disney, troubled by a loss-making first year of operations dogged by bad weather and recession, may look for an outside partner to provide new funds, writes Julian Nundy.

The news was disclosed in an interview with Michael Eisner, chairman of the theme park's parent, Walt Disney, by the Los Angeles Times. The interview, published in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune, boosted Euro Disney shares by 20p to 665p.

Mr Eisner said the project was 'like a movie that starts off slow. You just have to be a believer in better times'. The theme park east of Paris opened on 12 April last year. Despite good attendance, it has never approached a financial success and lost an estimated Fr500m (pounds 56m) in the three months to 30 June.

The Los Angeles Times quoted Mr Eisner as saying ways of buoying up Euro Disney in the short term included a cash infusion and a partnership with an outside investor. Last month, blaming its losses on lower-than-expected expenditure in the park's shops and restaurants as well as poor occupancy of its hotels, Euro Disney said it was reviewing its financial structure and its development strategy with Walt Disney.

Mr Eisner's comments seemed to reflect this plan. Euro Disney said the principal elements of any re-organisation would not be in place until the spring of next year. Until then, Walt Disney has agreed to finance investment in the French park.

In the spring, 3.1 million people visited the park, a figure within Euro Disney's own targets. The company said it expected a further loss for the three months to 30 September, its main season.

Euro Disney said attendance had been particularly affected by recession in Western Europe and by the devaluation of the British, Italian and Spanish currencies last September.