[ Disney Vacation Planner
NOVEMBER 01, 06:39 EDT Hong Kong, Disney OK New Theme
Park By DIRK BEVERIDGE AP Business Writer
Hong Kong's government and Walt Disney wrapped up talks
today on building a theme park here, and an official said they
had reached an agreement.
Disney, based in Burbank, Calif., and Hong Kong have
not confirmed that a deal was reached. But the government announced
that the two sides would hold a series of joint briefings in Hong
Kong on Tuesday to explain ``the outcome of the negotiations''
to lawmakers, economists, journalists, tourism executives and
Hong Kong officials hope a Disney park will improve
the battered economy, first by creating construction jobs and
later by attracting more tourists. If a deal has been reached,
Hong Kong would join Paris and Tokyo as Disney locations outside
the United States.
Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa,
planned an announcement on Disney for Tuesday morning, a government
statement said. The territory's tourism commissioner, Mike
Rowse, said earlier he planned to attend a series of briefings,
though he stopped short of confirming any deal.
An official speaking on condition of anonymity told
The Associated Press that an agreement had been reached, but declined
Disney spokesman Chris Furean said Judson
Green, chairman of the Disney subsidiary that operates overseas
theme parks and cruises, will be among the Disney executives on
hand Tuesday. He declined further comment.
Meanwhile, several Chinese-language newspapers reported
today that the government and Disney had struck a deal that would
involve a government investment of $2.6 billion.
A Hong Kong economist at investment bank Morgan Stanley
Dean Witter, Andy Xie, said today that construction of
a Disney park would improve the economic outlook in Hong Kong,
which has endured a 15-month recession.
Critics have said that after the park is built, most
of the jobs will require few skills and pay low wages. There have
also been concerns that Hong Kong would have to make too many
concessions to lure Disney.
Even before the talks were concluded, the government
said it would proceed with necessary reclamation work to build
a theme park - including hotels and restaurants - near Penny's
Bay on outlying Lantau Island, the site of the new Hong Kong airport.
Speculation that a deal had been sealed helped lift
traders' spirits on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange early today,
although blue chips gave up early gains of almost 1 percent and
finished up just half a percentage point.