11:25AM BST 12 Oct 2014
Saudi billionaire, Prince Alwaleed, says that he will keep his 10pc stake and support the indebted Disney resort's rights issue
Saudi billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed is to back the multi-million rescue deal of Parisian theme park Euro Disney.
Disneyland Paris last week revealed that it needed €1bn (£784m) bail out to help tackle its crippling debt pile.
Walt Disney Company, which owns a 39.8pc stake in the business, said that it would back the €420m rights issue which will improve the cash position of the Paris business by €250m (£196m). In addition, around €600m (£470m) of the group’s debt owed to Walt Disney will be converted into equity.
Prince Alwaleed, who is the second largest investor in Euro Disney, said that he will also support the rights issue. The Saudi billionaire owns a 10pc stake in the theme park on the outskirts of Paris through his Kingdom Holdings investment company.
“We will fully subscribe to the rights issue because we support France and we support Disney,” Prince Alwaleed told theMail on Sunday. “They will not take our stake, we will maintain 10pc”, he said.
Prince Alwaleed famously sued Forbes magazine for suggesting in its world’s billionaire richlist that he was worth only $20bn (£12.5bn).
The grandson of the founder of Saudi Arabia has not made his wealth from oil or inheritance but instead has built up significant stakes in trophy assets such as tech giant Apple, US banking group Citi and the Savoy Hotel in London through a large stake in Canary Wharf developer Songbird Estates.
Prince Alwaleed said that he had flown into Euro Disney, which recently built a Ratatouille themed ride, and said that he still believed it was a “top-notch tourist destination”.
Shares in Euro Disney plunged over 16pc last week on news of the €1bn refinancing.
Although Euro Disney is Europe's most-visited tourist attraction attendance slipped 6.9pc last year to 14.9m - still nearly as many visitors as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre combined. The French comprise 51pc of all the visitors to Euro Disney, followed by 14pc from the UK.
However, the decrease in attendance left Euro Disney with a €27.5m (£21.5m) operating loss on a revenue of €1.3bn (£1bn) last year.
Euro Disney runs seven hotels and two theme parks, including Disneyland Paris. Soon after it opened, the French theatre director, Ariane Mnouchkine, famously described it as a “cultural Chernobyl”. The French were initially put off by high ticket prices and a ban on alcohol sales, which has since been reversed.
Euro Disney’s next major boost is expected to come in 2016 when it will open a new leisure complex, Villages Nature, in partnership with France’s leading holiday apartment rental company Pierre et Vacances.
• Family: Grandson of founder and first ruler of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz Alsaud
• Born: Riyadh, 1955
• Assets: stake in global financial Citigroup. Owns George V hotel in Paris, New York Plaza and London’s Savoy
• Other investments: stakes in News Corp, Time Warner, Disney and Apple. Portfolio includes Saks Inc, parent of upmarket US department stor