Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US) may quickly enlarge its Shanghai resort after it opens in late 2015 in order to meet rising demand in the world’s most populous country, Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said.
Shanghai Disney Resort will be almost 1,000 acres (404.7 hectares) in size when it opens, putting it third behind Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland Paris among the company’s resorts, Rasulo said at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York yesterday.
“We’re opening the park for a pretty healthy number of attendees but more importantly both we and our partners and the Shanghai government are eager and willing to expand rapidly after that,” Rasulo said.
Attendance could ultimately top the company’s second-most popular property, Tokyo Disney Resort, which has 28 million annual visitors, Rasulo said, reiterating remarks he made in September. Disney, the world’s largest theme park operator, is building a 29 billion-yuan ($4.78 billion) resort in Shanghai that will include two hotels and an outdoor recreational area.
The Burbank, California-based company owns 43 percent of the venture with the state-owned Shanghai Shendi Group Co., a consortium of three businesses, holding the rest.
The resort is part of a larger focus by Disney on China, where entertainment spending by consumers has lagged the growth of the middle class, Rasulo said. The new park is within a three-hour drive of 330 million people, many of them young families, he said.
Disney in the past four years invested in new attractions at its Hong Kong resort, where business is now “growing in leaps and bounds,” Rasulo said.
The company said last month that its capital expenditures in its current 2014 fiscal year may be about $1 billion higher than 2013 due to the investment in the Shanghai park.
Last week, Disney announced its first corporate sponsor of the new park. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. will feature its brand in the Garden of the Twelve Friends, part of an 11-acre compound at the center of the park where each animal of the Chinese Zodiac will be represented by a Disney or Pixar character.
“We believe we’re developing a park that will absolutely blow people away,” Rasulo said.
Shares of Disney rose 0.6 percent to $71.57 at the close in New York yesterday. The stock has gained 44 percent this year.
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