Remarks on Euro Disney seen as hardball tactics

Analysts interpreted comments by Walt Disney Co. chairman Michael Eisner that Euro Disney’s performance has been “dreadful” as Disney playing more hardball in restructuring talks on the money-losing theme park.

Euro Disney and French banks that put up most of the money to build the $ 4 billion park outside Paris declined to comment on the report by Eisner to his shareholders, made public Tuesday.

But banking sources saw Eisner’s statement as positioning.

“There’s evidently a bit of pressuring going on. It’s a good fight,” said an analyst with the Banque Nationale de Paris, one of the main investors in the park just east of Paris.

Disney, which holds a 49% stake in Euro Disney, is negotiating with 60 banks to keep the park operating past April, two years after the park opened.

In the park’s first fiscal year ended Sept. 30, the Euro Disney group reported $ 930 million in losses, despite attracting 17 million visitors.

In his report, Eisner called Euro Disney “our first real financial disappointment. … We are weighing all the options for the project.

“Some would call it dreadful, and in a financial sense, I would be forced to agree.”

Walt Disney Co. said in November that it took a $ 350 million charge against earnings during the fourth quarter to cover Euro Disney losses, pushing the entertainment conglomerate $ 78 mill-ion into the red for the quarter.

Restructuring talks are expected to include some combination of cost-cutting, Disney funding and a re-financing of bank debts.

Disney has said it would stop injecting money in Europe’s Magic Kingdom if no restructuring plan is reached by spring, and a Euro Disney audit last week said the park would close if there’s no plan by then.

A spokeswoman for the Banque Nationale de Paris said the banks’ own audit of Euro Disney will be completed in mid-January, and at that time “the banks will make their decision on the restructuring.”

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