Cash injection better than loan for Hong Kong Disneyland expansion says commerce secretary

Greg So defends asking taxpayers to fund Lantau park mega upgrade which will include zones based on Frozen and Marvel superheroes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 November, 2016, 10:19pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 4:13pm

A government injection of HK$5.8 billion to Disneyland’s expansion scheme is more viable than a commercial loan which could ­incur HK$300 million in interest every year, said commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung defending the use of taxpayers’ money.

Speaking on RTHK yesterday, So said the HK$10.9 billion project had been well received by lawmakers, with whom the government had had “very constructive” dialogue in the past week.

“All have the best interest of Hong Kong in mind and I hope that Legislative Council members would share this view and support this project,” So said.

The six-year expansion, due to start in 2018 will feature zones based on blockbuster Frozen and Marvel superhero films, as well as the transformation of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

As the Lantau park’s biggest shareholder, the government – which holds 53 per cent of the shares – will foot more than half the bill of its mega upgrade. It is subject to Legco approval.

Despite criticism the city has given too many benefits to the park with Hong Kong taxpayers’ money, So said a capital injection was already the best approach to fund this much-needed facelift amid stiff regional competition.

“If we were getting a commercial loan, the interest every year would be about HK$300 million,” So said, “We think a capital injection is a more suitable approach for this round of financing.”

Back in 2009, the government had to convert HK$6.25 billion worth of loans to Disneyland into equity upon agreement in principle of a five-year expansion. That was on the top of HK$3.25 billion investments the government made in 1999 to build the park.

The commerce minister who has been tasked with promoting tourism in the city said the government would continue to expand the park and this upgrade was only part of a larger strategy to fend off fierce competition.

At least 10 theme parks are scheduled to open in the mainland, Japan and South Korea and Indonesia and Malaysia between next year and 2020.

So estimated the HK$10.9 billion expansion together with the completion of the cross-border bridge linking to Macau and Zhuhai, will help attract up to 9.5 million visitors each year by 2025 – up from 6.8 million in 2015.