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Disneyland Paris, dream machine and financial nightmare

The theme park, heavily indebted, expects a loss of 110 million to 120 million euros this year, the heaviest since 2004. Its attendance is eroding.

The Disney group announced Monday, October 6, its intention to massively recapitalize Euro Disney, its subsidiary operating the theme park Marne-la-Vallée, near Paris. A complex transaction of more than 1 billion euros, which will involve the launch of a US takeover bid (OPA) on Euro Disney.

Disney wants to avoid a bankruptcy filing of its French subsidiary

“Given the name of our reference shareholder, the assumption of a bankruptcy has never been considered,” slip to Marne-la-Vallée. The only solution for Mickey: get out the checkbook.

Disney intends to inject 420 million euros of new money into the company that manages Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studio, the second park, opened in 2002. The group of Burbank (California) will also convert into shares some of the receivables held for 600 million euros. Finally, the remaining debt will be redeveloped, and the repayment pushed back to 2024. Debt consolidation must reduce debt by 43% in one go.

The consequence of this and not quite magic: Disney will rise to the capital of Euro Disney, and have to launch a takeover bid. The price is already fixed: 1.25 euro per share, while the share price was 3.46 euros Friday night. A gap that has unscrewed the price of Euro Disney 20% Monday at the opening of the Paris Bourse.

Today, the US parent company holds 40% of the shares, alongside Saudi Prince Al-Walid (10%) and a cohort of private and institutional investors (50%). Eventually, Disney could theoretically go up to 100%. The group wants the company to remain publicly traded. He proposes to his co-shareholders to subscribe also to the capital increase. Mr. Al-Walid has to give his answer in a week.

Euro Disney faces recurring losses and high debt

“In the face of losses, we knew we had to tackle our weak point, debt,” explains Mark Stead, Euro Disney’s CFO. This is what we do today, to find the means of our ambitions. This will have no impact on strategy or employment. ”
Since it opened in April 1992, the park has already been close to bankruptcy several times and had to carry out three financial restructurings in 1994, 2004 and 2012.

Commercially, though, it’s more of a success. After a tumultuous debut, during which Disneyland Paris was rejected by some as an unholy symbol of the American subculture and junk food, the company was accepted.
With nearly 15 million visitors in 2013, the park is the leading private tourist destination in Europe, and one of the most important hotels in France. The customers are very satisfied. The hotels are fuller than the average.
But, financially, this dream machine is a nightmare. In twenty-two years of activity, she has posted only seven financial years, especially the first years. Since 2002, on the contrary, it has suffered a cumulative net loss of more than 800 million euros. What to despair the shareholders.

In exchange, the SME is worth only 110 million euros, 54% less than five years ago. The stock is trading at near record lows.

The park must absorb heavy investments and the effects of the crisis in Europe

The equation is difficult. To build and maintain the dream, Euro Disney has made huge investments. More than 200 million euros just for “Ratatouille”, the new family attraction inaugurated in July, inspired by the story of a little rat who became the grand chef of a Parisian restaurant. Added to this is the repayment of the debt, which Euro Disney drags from the beginning like a ball, and the royalties paid to Disney.

On the revenue side, management has deployed marketing treasures to keep visitors staying longer and spend more. Efforts partly rewarded. “Look, we have just renovated the Sequoia Lodge hotel: it has increased the cost per visitor by 22%! “Exclaims Mr. Stead. But the crisis that dragged on in France, where half of the customers come from, has complicated the situation.

In 2013, the operating result returned to the red. Since January, the situation is getting worse. Attendance is likely to fall to 14.1 million visitors over the year, against 16 million in 2012, according to estimates presented Monday. The occupancy rate of hotels could fall to 75%, far from the record of 91% obtained just before the crisis.
Under these conditions, Euro Disney expects a net loss of 110 million to 120 million euros, the heaviest since 2004. The equivalent of nearly 10% of turnover. Result, a cash more and more under tension. It was time to act.

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