Disney Whitehead interest confirmed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 February, 1999, 12:00am

Disney is studying the financial viability of setting up a theme park at the defunct Whitehead detention centre near Ma On Shan, it has been confirmed.

The entertainment giant contracted a study to an accounting firm last month. The 'due diligence' study is expected to be completed in a few months, according to a source.

It is the clearest indication yet the Walt Disney Company is serious about setting up a park in Hong Kong.

The Government has still no planned use for the 13-hectare Whitehead site, zoned 'undetermined' in October 1997.

A further 12.5 hectares of agricultural land south of the camp and owned by the Government is also zoned 'undetermined'.

The Government rejected a bid by Henderson Land to develop a $4 billion joint venture housing project at nearby Lok Wo Sha three years ago.

'Its possible use is still being considered by the department,' a Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau spokesman said.

The Financial Secretary's Office is leading Hong Kong's attempt at luring Disney to the SAR, with Business and Services Promotion Unit director Mike Rowse heading to the United States shortly to continue negotiations, sources say.

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's office last night did not deny the involvement, but said it had nothing to offer 'at this stage' when asked whether the Government would bankroll the project.

Disney is demanding the Government provide the land, water, roads and public transport links to the area, according to one source.

Property companies Cheung Kong and Sun Hung Kai were vying for the chance to become a local partner in the Disney project, the source said. A spokesman for Cheung Kong refused to comment last night. The company owns some land south of Lok Wo Sha village and also has a hotel overlooking Tolo Harbour.

The rumours about Disney's plans have been fuelled by Economic Services Bureau chief Stephen Ip Shu-kwan's admission the Government was holding talks.

The bureau has also repeatedly refused to deny persistent speculation arising over possible plans.

While Disney has said the Asian economic turmoil is an immediate problem, chairman Michael Eisner said in January the company was 'getting close to the time for a major Disney attraction in the world's most populous nation'.