PARIS (Reuters) - The Walt Disney Company (DIS.N) announced a 2 billion euro ($2.5 billion) investment to expand its French theme park Disneyland Paris after taking full control of the business last year.
Chief Executive Bob Iger announced the spending plan after meeting President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, saying it reflected the U.S. media group’s positive view on France and Europe more widely.
“This investment...is the direct result of the growing confidence that we have in the economy of Europe and in France in particular,” Iger said in a video posted on the French Presidency’s twitter account.
However, Iger suffered a blow on Tuesday when U.S. cable giant Comcast (CMCSA.O) offered to buy European broadcaster Sky for $31 billion, potentially derailing Disney’s own bid for assets owned by Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA.O).
The Disneyland development will include three new areas based on Marvel superheroes such as Spider-Man and the Hulk, Disney’s animated film Frozen and Star Wars, and will be rolled out in phases, starting in 2021. There will also be new attractions and live entertainment experiences.
“The expansion plan is one of the most ambitious development projects at Disneyland Paris since its opening in 1992 and underscores the company’s commitment to the long-term success of the resort as Disney’s brand beacon in Europe,” Walt Disney said in a statement.
Macron, a former investment banker pushing through social and economic reforms, said Iger’s financial commitment reflected renewed investor belief in France.
“Your confidence shows that France is back,” Macron said in his own tweet.
Disneyland Paris is Europe’s most visited theme park. It sits on a 2,230-hectare site about 32 kilometres (20 miles ) east of Paris, though only half of site has been developed so far, according to the company’s 2016 annual report.
With more than 320 million visitors passing through its turnstiles since 1992, the park accounts for 6.2 percent of France’s tourism income and has been a boon for local employment, employing some 16,000 staff.
Even so, Euro Disney faced deep financial troubles after making overly optimistic projections on visitor numbers and taking on too much debt.
Walt Disney took control of the ailing company in June 2017 and de-listed its shares.
Its new investment drive comes amid a rebound in French tourism after the industry was weakened by a series of Islamist militant attacks in Paris, Nice and other cities.
Euro Disney racked up a net loss of 858 million euros in 2016 as visitor numbers fell 10 percent to 13.4 million.
However, 2017 marked the French capital’s best year for tourism in at least a decade.
Disneyland Paris comprises two theme parks - the fairytale-themed Disneyland Park and the Walt Disney Studios Park. Its seven hotels have some 5,800 bedrooms, two convention centers and a golf course.
Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Richard Lough and Keith Weir