Mickey to the rescue as Disney bails out Disneyland Paris

Mickey to the rescue as Disney bails out Disneyland Paris

PARIS - The operator of struggling Disneyland Paris, a top European tourist attraction, unveiled a billion-euro refinancing package Monday as it battles a drastic fall in visitor numbers and a debt mountain.

The news sent Euro Disney shares plummeting by as much as 21 per cent on the Paris market. Its later recovered somewhat but the stock still closed down nearly 10 per cent.

The plan, revealed at a crisis meeting early Monday before markets opened, includes a cash infusion of 420 million euros (S$680 million) by US parent company Disney and a conversion of 600 million euros of debt owed to Disney into equity.

Tom Wolber, president of Euro Disney, blamed the difficult European economic environment for the group's problems.

"Disneyland Paris is Europe's number-one tourist destination, but the ongoing economic challenges in Europe and our debt burden have significantly decreased operating revenues and liquidity," he said in a statement.

The emergency plan is "essential to improve our financial health and enable us to continue making investments." Disneyland Paris is pinning its hopes on its new star attraction Ratatouille, which cost a record 200 million euros and is "a success with more than one million visitors since it opened," according to the firm.

Once described as a "cultural Chernobyl" for its blend of French and US traditions, the park and adjoining hotel complex opened in 1992 on the eastern outskirts of Paris in a blaze of publicity.

But it took time to take off and has since run into a series of crises and struggled to turn a profit.

Nevertheless, the site eventually built up its visitor numbers and has welcomed more than 275 million guests, making it Europe's top private tourist attraction.

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