Euro Disney upbeat

Net losses cut by a third in half-year; sales up 7%

PARIS — Euro Disney, operator of Disneyland Paris, narrowed net losses for the first half of the fiscal year beginning October 1999 to $28.8 million — a third lower than in the same period last year.

Operating margins rose by 43% to $32.9 million while the company’s total sales were up 8% to $372 million. The theme park increased sales by 7% to $175 million, thanks largely to higher admission fees and events to celebrate the new millennium.

The first half-year, which covers the off-season, is traditionally a money-losing period for Euro Disney, with the company making its profits during the second half of the year. Net income for the whole of the 1998-99 fiscal year stood at $22 million.

Storm thief

Disneyland Paris’ earnings from holiday period festivities were dented by the impact of a freak storm that swept across France Christmas night.

High winds caused extensive damage to 500 bungalows at the Davy Crockett Ranch, and the park was forced to close the next day, reducing the number of visitors by around 100,000 during the following week. The Ranch remained closed for repairs for more than three months.

Some 300 bungalows have subsequently been reopened and the rest will be operational before the summer, Euro Disney said Wednesday.

Central to its plans for the future, the company is investing $567 million in a second theme park, Disney Studios, which is expected to boost the site’s 12.5 million visitors by a further 4.5 million in 2003.

Based on ticket sales alone, that will hike up revenues by another $184 million.

Expansion ahead

Later this year, the company will also open its Val d’Europe development on the edge of the theme park. It’s also negotiating the creation of a business park with a British property developer.

Euro Disney, which was forced into the red partly as a result of a crash in French property values as the project got started, has debts in excess of $2 billion. The Walt Disney Co. owns a 39% stake in the company, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal 17.3%.

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