Universal Studios plans Beijing theme park

SHANGHAI, Feb 12 (Reuters) – U.S. film giant Universal Studios is awaiting regulatory approval to build a theme park costing more than 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) in Beijing, a Chinese government official said on Thursday.

“Universal has filed an application to build a theme park in Beijing and the project is being screened by the government,” a spokeswoman with the Beijing city government told Reuters.

The park, to be jointly owned by Universal Studios and state-owned Beijing Tourism Group, has been listed by Beijing’s city government as one of its key projects for 2009, the official Shanghai Securities News quoted unnamed sources as saying.

The project is likely to be approved because the authorities are keen to launch big projects that would boost the slowing economy, the report said.

But the Beijing government official played down the report saying there was no guarantee the theme park would get the green light.

An executive with Beijing Tourism, which owns Beijing Capital Tourism Co (600258.SS) and China Quanjude (Group) Co (002186.SZ), told Reuters the firm had set up a team to handle the project, but declined to elaborate. Universal Studios was not immediately available to comment.

Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) said last month that it would submit a proposal to the Chinese government to build a theme park in Shanghai. That project would cost more than $3 billion, Chinese media reports said.

Universal Studios is operated by NBC Universal, which is 80 percent owned by General Electric Co (GE.N) and 20 percent by Vivendi (VIV.PA). ($1 = 6.83 Yuan) (Reporting by Fang Yan; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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