By Courtney Trenwith
The billionaire will join a $532m bailout of the ailing French theme park, in which he currently owns a 10% stake
Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has agreed to join a €420 million ($532 million) bailout of Euro Disney, in order to maintain his 10 percent stake in the company.
The prince made the decision after visiting Disneyland Paris last week, The Mail on Sunday revealed.
The French theme park secured a rescue deal from its biggest shareholder, US-based Walt Disney Company, last week that will see Disney swap €600 million ($761 million) of Euro Disney’s debt for equity and the deferment of repayments on loans until 2024, as well as new shares issued.
Under the deal, Prince Alwaleed risked having his stake dramatically cut if he did not also invest extra cash.
His support was seen as a crucial vote of confidence in the company, The Mail on Sunday report said.
Disneyland Paris racked up a net loss of $964 million in its first year of operation in 1992 and has only turned a profit in eight of the past 22 years.
Despite recording 14.9 million visitors last year, the theme park lost $99 million.
Prince Alwaleed told The Mail on Sunday he had been impressed during his visit to the park and would continue to support the company.
“We will fully subscribe to the rights issue because we support France and we support Disney,” he was quoted as saying.
“They will not take our stake. We will maintain 10 percent.
“Operationally there is no problem at all. I went to the hotels. I skinned the park, I skinned the hotels, I skinned everything. Meticulous. It is a top-notch tourist destination.”
However, he said visitor numbers to Disneyland Paris, the most popular tourist destination in Europe, had been disappointing.
“Two years ago we had 16 million visitors to Euro Disney, with half from France. Now it is down to 14 million and most of the loss comes from France. But we are seeing a plateau because revenue was up this quarter,” he said.
The Walt Disney Company has a 40 percent stake, with 10 percent owned by Alwaleed, 5 percent owned by fund manager Invesco and the rest floated on the Paris Euronext exchange.