Swiss group springs hostile bid for Euro Disney

30th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 30, 2006 (AFP) - The chequered history of theme park operator Euro Disney took a twist as dramatic as anything in a Mickey Mouse cartoon on Thursday when an obscure Swiss holding company unveiled a hostile takeover bid.

PARIS, Nov 30, 2006 (AFP) - The chequered history of theme park operator Euro Disney took a twist as dramatic as anything in a Mickey Mouse cartoon on Thursday when an obscure Swiss holding company unveiled a hostile takeover bid.

Center-Tainment, registered in the notoriously low-tax Swiss canton of Zug, will launch its takeover bid in the next few days, its chief executive Ulf Werner told reporters here.

Euro Disney, which operates the theme park near Paris, claims to be Europe's most popular tourist attraction with 12.8 million visitors in its year to September, but it remains loss-making and still has EUR 1.9 billion in debt.

It has been forced to restructure its finances twice since being launched in the early 1990s and as recently as last February was facing insolvency.

The takeover offer from Center-Tainment will be an all-share offer for Euro Disney's free floating stock, aimed at giving Center-Tainment a 50.01-percent stake, Werner said at a news conference here.

"Our purpose is to make Euro Disney profitable so that shareholders can participate in the results of the operating company and not only pay off the debt and interest charges," he said.

The French financial markets regulator AMF said Center-Tainment had not submitted a formal bid for Euro Disney and that it must do so by Monday or give up its bid to buy it for at least six months.

Kurt Andreesen, described as a consultant to Center-Tainment, said the company would offer one Center-Tainment share for about 200 Euro Disney shares, which would value 50.01 percent of the company at just EUR 200 million, according to a calculation by AFP.

The offer values Euro Dinsey shares at EUR 0.11.

Shares in Euro Disney had fallen 22.22 percent to 0.07 euros when the Paris stock exchange closed Thursday.

Andreesen said he was convinced Center-Tainment would reach its 50.01 percent target, adding it had investors behind it who have enough money to finance its plans.

The stable shareholders in Euro Disney are the US media and theme park group Walt Disney, which owns a 39.8-percent stake, and Saudi Arabian Prince al-Walid who has a 10-percent holding.

Andreesen also said Center-Tainment would negotiate a new commercial deal between the Paris theme park and Walt Disney.

"We want to negotiate a new contract between Euro Disney and Walt Disney and make Euro Disney more profitable," he said.

Faced with insolvency in February 2005, Euro Disney completed a 253.3-million-euro capital increase after agreement was reached with Walt Disney and creditor banks to restructure and cut the group's debt from EUR 2.4 billion to EUR 1.9 billion.

Andreesen said Center-Tainment, which is quoted on the Frankfurt stock exchange, was trading at EUR 13 per share, down from EUR 34 a few days ago. With 10 million shares in issue, it has a market value of EUR 130 million, he said.

The company has "45 or 46" shareholders, with the core investor being a German company, Werner said, without revealing its name.

A spokesman for Euro Disney told AFP on Wednesday that there been no "discussions of offer details" with the Swiss company.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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