Nomura wants a string of Domes across Europe

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The Independent Online

Nomura, the Japanese bank backing the £105m purchase of the blighted Millennium Dome, is so convinced it can make a success of the site that it is planning a network of Dome copies across Europe.

Nomura, the Japanese bank backing the £105m purchase of the blighted Millennium Dome, is so convinced it can make a success of the site that it is planning a network of Dome copies across Europe.

The Nomura-backed Dome Europe consortium agreed to buy the site in a deal clinched 10 days ago. It plans to continue many of the existing exhibitions and add a series of new attractions, including an indoor adventure playground, a ride based on the children's classic Where The Wild Things Are and a Yellow Submarine adventure, based on the Beatles film.

Nomura is expecting around 4 million visitors next year, well down from this year's disappointing total, but believes that by 2004, over 6 million people a year will visit the Dome.

The Japanese bank, whose hyperactive principal finance group is headed by Guy Hands, is so convinced that the project will work that it is working on plans to roll it out across Europe.

Mr Hands believes similar large exhibitions will be successful in major cities on the Continent, such as Frankfurt, Madrid or Milan. He also thinks there may be room for one or two more Domes in the UK, with Manchester or Glasgow the most likely locations.

Nomura secured the Dome in a straight battle with Legacy, a group run by millionaire Labour supporter Robert Bourne, who wanted to build a technology park. Mr Bourne claims he offered up to £50m more than Nomura, but his was a revenue-sharing deal with no guarantees, while Nomura's was a cash offer.

Half of the £105m Nomura paid is to go to the Millennium Commission, which funded the Dome. It has now agreed to lend £43m of this to the New Millennium Experience Company, which runs the Dome, to cover its financial shortfalls.

The Government was so worried that the NMEC might have to close the Dome early that it checked that Nomura would have no objection to an early closure. Nomura said it would not object, but it is understood that a sigh of relief has been emitted at Dome Europe, where it was felt an early closure of the Dome might harm attendance figures after Nomura takes charge.

The Dome deal is one of three high-profile transactions that Nomura has been involved in recently. Last week it lost out to Mapeley, the George Soros-backed consortium, in the £2bn battle to take over the Inland Revenue's offices.

This week it has to decide whether to top the £526m bid for Hyder, the Welsh multi-utility, tabled by Western Power Distributors, the US joint venture whose offer has been recommended by the Hyder board.

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