SHANGHAI/HONG KONG, Nov 2 (Reuters) – The Shanghai government may soon give preliminary details on plans for a new Disney theme park it hopes to develop, as it awaits Beijing’s formal approval for the project, a government source said on Monday.
The official Xinhua news agency cited Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng as telling a media briefing on Sunday that the city would hold a news briefing soon to reveal the latest developments concerning the proposed park.
“This project will surely go forward, but first it must be approved by the central government,” said the government source on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
“They will seek to clarify the situation with this upcoming news conference,” he said.
Rumors have swirled in Chinese media in the last two weeks that Shanghai could soon announce final plans to build a park with Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), possibly to coincide with a planned trip to the city later this month by U.S. President Barack Obama.
“The project is still in the planning stages and most of the details aren’t mature yet,” he said, adding that the city had decided on a site in Shanghai’s Pudong New Area for the project but was determining who the local business partners would be.
Shares of property developers with holdings in Pudong advanced on Monday. Shanghai Lujiazui Development (600663.SS) was up 8.8 percent as of 0628 GMT and Xiamen Prosolar (600193.SS) was up 6.81 percent. The broader Shanghai market .SSEC was up 2.37 percent.
In China, approval for massive projects on the scale of Disney can be a long, opaque process that can drag on for years, with officials sometimes providing early indications before a final decision is formally announced to the public.
Disney has been trying to build a park for years in Shanghai, in an on-again-off-again effort as it tries for a bigger footprint in a fast-growing China market where success has eluded most Western media companies.
Disney is interested in Shanghai not only for the city’s large population, but also for the many major cities, including the likes of Suzhou, Nanjing and Hangzhou, located within easy driving distance.
Media reports have placed the cost of the park around $3.6 billion.
Disney already has operations in Hong Kong, where its fifth resort was built in 2005.
Analysts said a Disney agreement could be a feel-good bilateral story, highlighting U.S. cultural influence and an investment that does not entail U.S. job losses in the manufacturing sector.
China would get a boost to its leisure sector and to domestic demand as it tries to trim its dependence on exports, which left it vulnerable during the financial crisis, wrote Gong Weisong, an editor at the state-run Shanghai Securities News last month.
(Reporting by Doug Young and Edmund Klamann; Editing by Chris Lewis)