China rails at theme park boom over debt risk, 'blind' construction

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s powerful state planner said on Monday that a boom in theme parks around the country had led to “blind” construction and was creating local debt risks, underscoring Beijing’s concerns over property development bubbles.

Theme park developers should strengthen supervision to “prevent the formation of local debt risks, social risks and financial risks,” the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement on its website.

“In the development of theme parks we’ve seen unclear concepts, blind construction, imitations and plagiarism, low-standard duplication and other issues,” the NDRC said, adding in some areas “local debt risks” were emerging.

The regulator also said firms should look to bolster the role of government in theme park planning and strictly control large-scale theme parks, defined as those over a certain size and involving investment over 1.5 billion yuan (168.91 million pounds).

China has seen hundreds of theme parks spring up around the country to tap into fast-rising consumer demand, with developments from Walt Disney Co DIS.N, Dalian Wanda Group, Sunac China Holdings Ltd 1918.HK and others.

China’s theme park market saw sales grow 27 percent last year to hit an estimated 39.5 billion yuan, according to consultancy Mintel. It is set to more than double in size to 89.2 billion yuan by 2022.

The NDRC added property developments around theme parks, including residential and commercial buildings, would be more strictly controlled and must be separately approved rather than being “bundled in” with the park development itself.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan