Except for a few rare public statements by mayor Xu Kuangdi in Beijing in March, Shanghai has been keeping pretty mum about its marathon bid to convince Walt Disney to build a theme park in the city. Part of the reason for the low profile is both sides have agreed the discussions should not be leaked to the Press. In Shanghai, as elsewhere on the mainland, it is easy enough for the city to stick to its side of the bargain. A word from the party or government propaganda apparatus is enough to silence any curious mainland reporter from trying to publish anything about the talks. Not so in Hong Kong, where newspapers have been competing vigorously to give the public the latest twists and turns of the Disney talks. Although a late bidder for the theme park, the SAR seems to be moving into the tough final stage of talks with Disney, and a deal could be announced imminently. But the two sides were unable to settle in time for Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's policy speech on Wednesday. The postponement of the deal, which was first expected to be finalised in the middle of the year, suggests serious hard bargaining is going on between the SAR and Disney to reach a compromise. In Shanghai, however, there is no sense that the yawning gap between the two parties is edging closer. The difficulty of reaching a deal is illustrated by the long years the two have taken to reach a common ground that could push the talks further. Shanghai has been talking to the US entertainment giant about the possibility of a theme park for at least five years, giving it a head start of at least three years over the SAR. Indeed, a huge piece of land has been earmarked in Pudong - the city's emerging financial district - for a theme park to serve the increasingly affluent mainland market, particularly people from the rapidly growing eastern coastal cities. Yet, it looks like it will stay empty for a few more years as the difference between what the city is offering and what the tough-talking Disney wants is too wide to offer any prospects of a deal ahead of the SAR's bid. The story on the grapevine - and Shanghai sources admit there is some truth to it - is that Disney is only interested in a licensing agreement for Shanghai, where it will transfer the technology and management expertise for running a theme park in return for annual fees. In other words, the US giant does not want to have an equity stake in the park which, by Shanghai's estimates, would cost US$100 million initially, and up to $1 billion when the entire project is completed. This is an arrangement different from the SAR's, where Hong Kong and Disney will reportedly be the two initial shareholders of a new corporation set up to operate the park should they strike a deal. Why the difference? Analysts say this is probably because Disney reckons a mainland park would need more money to maintain, raising costs and cutting profits. However, the standard of the SAR's management and maintenance skills is much higher. The well-kept Ocean Park is a case in point. The conventional view is that, even if Hong Kong goes ahead with a park, there is room for a second one on the mainland. Who gets it at the end of the day is decided not by Shanghai - Zhuhai in Guangdong is also bidding for it - but by Beijing, which has the final say in a project as massive as this.