Disney powers ahead with English schools in China: report

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Walt Disney plans to rapidly expand its language schools across mainland China with the aim of teaching English to 150,000 children by 2015, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

After a successful trial phase that began in 2008, the number of schools will expand from 11 to 148 in five years, Russell Hampton, president of Disney Publishing Worldwide, told the Financial Times in an interview in Los Angeles.

"It is a very sizeable opportunity, something that can deliver operating earnings of well over 100 million dollars in the next five years," Hampton said.

The schools are part of expansion plans in China that are to be crowned by the entertainment giant opening its first mainland theme park in Shanghai, expected in 2014.

As the first foreign media company to run schools in China, Disney is seizing an opportunity to tap a growing middle class market, while strengthening its bond with a new generation of consumers, the report said.

"We wouldn't enter this business just to use it as a marketing tool to get Disney in front of people," Hampton was quoted as saying.

"But there's no doubt that a side benefit is broader exposure to Chinese consumers and to build familiarity with the rich heritage of Disney story-telling," he said.

Government media controls and quotas governing television content and capping the number of foreign films in cinemas at 20 a year have limited Disney's expansion in China.