Abu Dhabi to build $1 billion Warner Bros. theme park

LONDON (Reuters) - An Abu Dhabi firm will build a $1 billion theme park with U.S. entertainment company Warner Bros. in the emirate, Miral Asset Management said on Tuesday, competing for tourist dollars with neighboring Dubai.

Miral said Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi would open in 2018, featuring a Warner Bros.-branded hotel as well as rides linked to the U.S. company’s comic and cartoon characters, such as Batman and Bugs Bunny.

Miral said it expected to invest $1 billion in the park while Warner Bros., a Time Warner Inc company, would provide expertise.

Yas Island, the site of the project, already features a Formula 1 racetrack, a Ferrari-branded theme park and a water park. It drew 25 million visitors last year and the Warner Bros. project will lift that to 30 million, the companies said.

Miral Chairman Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak is also chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and chief executive of Aldar Properties, a state-linked real estate development company.

Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are eager to boost foreign tourist arrivals as oil prices slump, causing an economic slowdown in the region.

Seventy kilometers (45 miles) down the road from Yas Island, a huge theme park complex is being built by Dubai Parks and Resorts, which is part of property developer Meraas Holding, owned by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

On Tuesday Dubai Parks and Resorts announced details of a 1.68 billion dirham ($457 million) rights issue to finance development of a Six Flags-branded theme park.

Reporting by Katie Paul; editing by Andrew Torchia and Susan Thomas