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A.P. Announcement

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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 local personalities.

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 to elaborate.

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.


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