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Euro Disney may get an extension

Debt-ridden Euro Disney may have longer than until March 31 to agree to a rescue package with its bankers before parent company Walt Disney Co. stops funding the theme park, a banker close to rescue talks said Thursday.

Walt Disney has threatened to pull the plug on the money-losing theme park outside Paris if a solution is not found by the end of this month, but the deadline may not be absolute, the banker said.

Some 60 banks are in talks with Walt Disney about a plan to restructure its 21 billion franc ($ 3.6 billion) debt. Euro Disney has serious cash problems after losing $ 930 million in the year ended in September.

“My feeling is that the date of March 31 is not set in stone, as long as the negotiations under way to get the French leisure park on a sound footing are developing well,” said the banker, who declined to be identified.

“If the talks go well, I think Walt Disney will continue to give its support, ” he said.

Bankers are due to meet here today for a second attempt at reaching a rescue package.

Park backer

Another positive voice speaking out in the park’s favor Thursday was local deputy Jean-Claude Mignon, who said he wanted the French government to get involved in its future.

“The park exists. Do we let it die or do we help it? I intend to make politicians more aware,” he said.

Mignon, a deputy in the ruling Gaullist RPR party for the Seine-et-Marne region, where Euro Disney is located, said the resort was the area’s main employer. Euro Disney had not only created jobs but helped the area’s economy, he said.

“We need to save the jobs and create others,” Mignon said. Some 10,000 people are employed at Euro Disney, and there are many jobs linked to the surrounding infrastructure involved.

Mignon said he was surprised at how some French politicians had been opposed to setting up an American-run firm in France and how they continued to oppose Euro Disney.

‘Cultural Chernobyl’

When the park opened in April 1992, intellectuals branded the theme park a “cultural Chernobyl” and the extreme right wing called on the French to boycott the park.

So far officials at the French trade, economy and tourism ministries have repeatedly said that Euro Disney is a private firm and the government cannot become involved in its affairs.

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