Shanghai Disney 'wins approval'
The proposed Shanghai Disney resort had received long-awaited blessing from the central government ahead of a final deal between the entertainment giant and the Shanghai municipal government, sources said.
The National Development and Reform Commission, the mainland's top economic planning body, had finally given approval for a Disney theme park, sources said.
This came after authorities in the city stepped up their lobbying for the Disney project in the past two months, citing it as a key part of a broader stimulus package to rein in an economic slowdown in Shanghai.
A group of top Walt Disney Company executives had scheduled a visit to the mainland this month and 'they will probably not return home empty-handed', said a source with knowledge of the matter, indicating the negotiations over the details of an agreement had reached the final stages.
But a Hong Kong-based Disney spokesman, repeating a stance the company has taken in recent months, said yesterday: 'There is no announcement and there's no deal.'
Previous media reports estimated the cost of the proposed theme park, to cover an area eight times that of the Hong Kong Disneyland resort, at about 40 billion yuan (HK$45.5 billion), excluding the land.
Construction of the park in the suburban Chianti district would be carried out in several phases and was planned to be completed in five years, said a source close to the Shanghai municipal government.
The central government approval came partly as a result of hard lobbying in person by senior figures, including the city's party boss Yu Zhengsheng , who hoped the project could create jobs, offsetting the forthcoming economic slowdown to some extent, the source said.
The central government launched a 4 trillion yuan stimulus package early last month to sustain growth in the economy.
The theme park was first mooted 10 years ago and Shanghai has repeatedly said any decision would depend on the central government.
'It's by no means a bargain on Shanghai's part, but it's probably the best terms they could get,' said one of the sources, referring to the deal.