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Euro Disney debt eyed

Euro Disney continues to have difficulty selling itself to recession-hit Europe, but U.S. buyers are queuing up to get their hands on the theme park’s debt.

In Paris Tuesday, New York-based debt broker M.J. Whitman staged a presentation to reps from around 20 of Euro Disney’s 60 creditor banks in an attempt to persuade them to part with their share of the debt.

Earlier this month the Midland Bank sold around 130 million francs of debt ($ 22 million) at around 60 cents to the dollar. A Midland Bank spokesman refused to confirm the deal to Daily Variety, but sources said it had been done.

An M.J. Whitman exec confirmed to Daily Variety that the company was in talks with several other creditor banks who are interested in selling their debts.

With debts of around 20 billion francs ($ 3.4 billion) and losses of $ 905 million in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 1993, Euro Disney is in deep financial trouble.

The banking consortium and park parent Walt Disney have suspended recovery plan talks while KPMG Peat Marwick completes a Euro Disney audit. The audit results are now expected early February and Walt Disney has given a commitment to keep funding the park through March.

U.S. investors hopeful

U.S. institutional investors are targeting Euro Disney as a worthwhile investment in the strong U.S. secondary debt market. They hope to buy the debt at bargain prices from the disillusioned Euro Disney banking consortium and then recover more than they paid.

Some of the creditor banks have become fearful that Walt Disney may walk away from the park, while others, including the Japanese lenders, are reportedly keen to turn their attention to their domestic markets.

Last year the word was that the banks hoped to get what is known as a “distressed” price of 70 cents on the dollar, but M.J. Whitman partner Peter Lupoff told Daily Variety Tuesday that he thought a more realistic price for 1A debt (related to loans to the theme park itself) would be below 50 cents.

Banks bitter

Bank consortium sources described Tuesday’s presentation as “unhelpful and untimely.” Observers of the rescue plan negotiations say that talk of selling debt could divide the banks. In addition, if some of the banks do cut their losses and sell, Walt Disney could face a new set of negotiators.

“You can understand why some of the banks may want to get out of Euro Disney, but it must put a strain on the bankers if they think that the guy next to them is thinking about chucking in their hand,” said one London-based entertainment analyst.

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