From DLRP’s white knight to its competitor?

CNN Money reports about an article of Bahrain’s al-Waqt newspaper which based on un-identified sources states that Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is supposed to be in talks with potential investors to build an $8 billion Disneyland theme park in Bahrain based on existing Disney theme park concepts and to be called tentatively “Disney Bahrain”. While the report does give no indications wether The Walt Disney Company is directly involved in the talks it names Kuwait Finance House, the Gulf’s second-largest Islamic bank by market value, and Bahraini institutions as being among the potential investors targeted in the talks. According to CNN Money Kuwait Finance House in Bahrain declined to either confirm or deny the report, while the spokeswoman for the prince could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Bahrain’s Economic Development Board and a spokesman for the state-owned Mumtalakat Holding Company said they had not heard of the deal.

According to a report of Reuters on the other hand The Walt Disney Company denied any involvment in such talks. A spokesperson is cited as explicitely stating the company “is not in talks to build a theme park in Bahrain.”

The Bahrain’s al-Waqt newspaper report cited its source saying “The founding committee has undertaken a study… and has found the region is in great need of a project for family entertainment”. Furtherone it provided surprisingly detailed information but also a rather unrealistic timeline for the project stating that work would be expected to start in May as the park eventually would cover 16 million square meters and would be expected to take six years to complete. The statement regarding the start of work in May already makes the report highly questionable. And in the prompt denial of TWDC and it seems as if the report can be added to the endless list of states, cities and other locations who tried to get themselves into the running for a future Disney theme park by publicly announcing some talks.

Nevertheless what makes this rumors so interesting – besides the fact that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal as eigths richest man in the world might be the person able to pull of such a project, find enough investors and have good enough contacts at TWDC and good enough a negotiation position to convince TWDC – is the fact that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was essential to saving the Disneyland Resort Paris repeatedly from financial collapse and indirectly still holds 10% in the venture. With Bahrain relatively well connected to Europe by air and the fact that DLRP frequently welcomes guests from the gulf states especially in its flagship Disneyland Hotel at the entrance gates to the Disneyland Park any project like “Disney Bahrain” must be expected to cannibalize at least partially on the market base of DLRP, even so no major impact should be expected as for the majority of the resort’s guests the cost of a visit to Bahrain at least at current levels is mzuch higher than a visit to Paris.

A “Disney Bahrain” project would fit into the current development plans of Bahrain and the gulf states which are positioning themselves more and more as central tourist destinations with numerous ambitious resort and entertainment projects. Especially Dubai is getting numerous ambitious projects ready or already has some the under construction. It is also worth noting that Prince  Alwaleed bin Talal even so he reduced his stake in the Disneyland Resort Paris in the past years has continues to to work close with The Walt Disney Company and improve his ties. Only last November his Rotana Audio Visual Co. signed a deal to distribute Walt Disney products across the Middle East and North Africa.


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One Response to “From DLRP’s white knight to its competitor?”

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