Disney, Hong Kong Extend Talks on Theme Park Plans

From Times Wire Services

The government of Hong Kong and Walt Disney Co. officials said Thursday that they will need four more months of discussions to resolve economic issues before reaching a deal on a proposed $2-billion Disney theme park for the region.

Although Burbank-based Disney and Hong Kong made “significant progress” in their negotiations, “it’s an awful lot to work through,” said Mike Rowse, the government’s point man on the proposed park. When they began negotiating, both sides had hoped a decision would be made by June 30. The new deadline is Oct. 31, he said.

The park would be built on reclaimed land off sparsely populated Lantau Island. The park would mean jobs--both in building it and once it opens--and bring in more tourists. Some economists say, though, that the effect on Hong Kong’s economy would not be enormous.

According to recent Hong Kong media reports, Disney was demanding various concessions, including free land and low-interest loans, on the project that would cost Hong Kong an estimated $640 million.

At a news conference in Hong Kong, Rowse said that when Hong Kong’s finance secretary, Donald Tsang, formally announced the negotiations with Disney in March, he had indicated that the original deadline of June 30 was the date to either reach a deal, give up or seek an extension of the talks.

Disney officials could not be reached for comment.

The two sides have gotten as far as discussing such details as road layout, rail links and land reclamation.

Hong Kong officials would not say how much money they have spent courting Disney.

For Disney, the park would be a platform to introduce products by familiarizing the Chinese with Disney brands and characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

The Hong Kong theme park would be Disney’s second in Asia, after Tokyo Disneyland. Officials in Shanghai also have said they would like to have a Disney park.