Disney Targets Early 2016 Opening in Shanghai

Walt Disney Co. plans to open its new theme park in Shanghai in the first half of 2016, according to a person familiar with the situation, after Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger earlier aimed for a late 2015 debut.

Iger will update investors on the 34 billion yuan ($5.4 billion) park’s progress during an earnings conference call Tuesday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

The Shanghai park will avoid the debt troubles that have plagued the company’s resort in Paris, while benefiting from a larger local population base and stronger economy, Iger, who’s also Disney chairman, said in an Oct. 10 interview on Bloomberg Television.

Disney was expecting China’s travel market to be 34 percent bigger than it was in 2012 by the project’s opening late this year, Iger had said in May, according to a Bloomberg transcript of the company’s quarterly earnings call. An estimated 330 million potential guests are within a three-hour travel radius of the Shanghai resort, he said.

Shanghai’s mayor Yang Xiong said at a Jan. 29 briefing that basic construction for the project would be completed by this year. The park, Disney’s first on mainland China, is a joint venture between Disney, based in Burbank, California, and Shanghai Shendi Group, a local consortium that owns 57 percent.

A Walt Disney spokeswoman had no comment on the opening date. Calls to Shendi’s office weren’t answered.

The scope of the Shanghai project was expanded last April when the Disney CEO announced $800 million in additional attractions. He attributed the increase in capacity to an improved outlook for China’s tourism market. Some 330 million potential customers live within a 300-mile radius of the site, Disney said.

“Shanghai Disneyland represents our best international growth initiative in a long time,” Iger said on a conference call in November.

The first-half 2016 target date was reported earlier in the Wall Street Journal.

— With assistance by Gregory Turk

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