Third-party investor for Disneyland possible under right circumstances, Hong Kong minister says

But government will not reduce stake in development any time soon as the ‘rate of return remained positive’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 April, 2017, 8:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 April, 2017, 11:17pm

The government has said it would not rule out having a third-party investor in Hong Kong Disneyland if economic circumstances changed for the city and the theme park.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung made the comment at a four-hour Legislative Council finance committee meeting on Friday. The government was seeking approval for a HK$5.8 billion injection of taxpayers’ money into an expansion project for the park.

“We won’t rule out that in the future, given the circumstances, we might introduce a third-party investor,” So said, adding that the government was “reviewing” its cooperation with Disney.

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But the minister said that reducing the government’s stake in the theme park was unlikely to happen any time soon as the “rate of return remained positive”.

However, it was the first time the government had admitted to the possibility of another investor in the project.

Pan-democratic legislators – who were accused by some pro-establishment lawmakers of filibustering the session – remained defiant of approving the funding proposal.

Independent pan-democrat Claudia Mo Man-ching slammed the government for not disclosing complete financial details of its stake in Disneyland. So said this was confidential under shareholder agreements.

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“The Legco is not a bank ... it’s public money ... when we inject funds that means it’s an investment and we have to see if it’s worthwhile,” Mo insisted.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun said the “unequal treaty” between the government and Disneyland would see future requests in Legco for more funding for the theme park, especially to keep up with regional rival attractions.

He suggested that the funding request be left to the incoming administration of chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, which might be able to negotiate a better deal.

The six-year expansion will feature thematic zones based on the blockbuster Frozen and Marvel superhero films, as well as a transformation of the Sleeping Beauty Castle.

The expansion is due to start in 2018, but Legco meetings for approval have gone on since November, and Friday’s session ended without a vote.