Walt Disney seeks full control of Disneyland Paris subsidiary

Euro Disney's finances have been 'significantly' hit by the November 2015 attacks on Paris (AFP Photo/BERTRAND GUAY) (AFP/File)

Paris (AFP) - Walt Disney is planning to take full ownership of its Disneyland Paris subsidiary in a bid to turn around its flagging fortunes, the company said Friday.

The announcement came as Euro Disney, which operates Disneyland Paris, said visitor numbers were up in the first quarter, despite the state of emergency that has been in place in France for over a year.

Initially, Walt Disney would increase its stake in the theme park to 85.7 percent by buying shares currently held by the billionaire Saudi prince Al-Walid ben Talal.

After that it would launch a public offering to acquire the remainder of Euro Disney's shares, it said.

Walt Disney said the offer price of 2.0 euros ($2.13) per share was a 67-percent mark-up on Euro Disney's closing price on Thursday.

It is nevertheless, a long way below the share price of 11 euros when Euro Disney went public in November 1989.

Walt Disney said that Euro Disney's financial condition "has been significantly and negatively impacted" by Islamist attacks on the French capital in November 2015, which killed 130 people.

Business conditions have also remained challenging in France and the rest of Europe since then, it said.

The buyout offer "affords maximum flexibility to shareholders, addresses the group's financial needs and reflects its ongoing support for the long-term success of Disneyland Paris," Walt Disney said.

- Situation 'improving' -

Meanwhile, Euro Disney said it is observing a pick-up in visitor numbers.

"After a difficult year, the Paris tourism environment remains challenging, with the year-long state of emergency still in place. However volumes at both our parks and hotels are improving," said Euro Disney chief executive Catherine Powell.

Euro Disney, which operates its business year from October to September, said revenues were up five percent at 354 million euros ($377 million) in the three months to December.

Park revenues rose by three percent to 194 million euros thanks to a six-percent increase in attendance, the company said.

That was because the year-earlier period had been "impacted by a four-day closure of the parks following the November 2015 events in Paris," it said.

In the October-December period, most of the additional guests came from France and Britain, while there were fewer visitors from Belgium and the Netherlands.

Nevertheless, the increase in attendance was "partially offset by a three-percent decrease in average spending per guest... primarily due to lower average ticket rates," Euro Disney explained.

Revenues generated by the hotels and Disney Village business grew by four percent to 141 million euros, "mainly due to a three-percentage point increase in hotel occupancy."

Euro Disney said Disneyland Paris was scheduled to celebrate its 25th anniversary in March and was hoping that would attract more visitors.