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Euro Disney bid: Mickey Mouse or for real?

Thursday, 30th November 2006 at 13:21

Center-Tainment has failed to announce in full its reported plan to make a hostile takeover bid for Euro Disney, the operator of Disneyland Resort Paris. With excuses that their chief legal counsel is sick, the Swiss firm announced their actions would be postponed for several days...,

Despite this, more details and comment from the firm are now available, including a statement from the CEO that “the aim of the bid was to gain management control and renegotiate the operating licence agreement with Walt Disney Co.”

PARIS, Nov 30 (Reuters) – An obscure Swiss firm with no operations failed to tell baffled Parisian journalists, investors and regulators on Thursday if it is serious about trying to take control of Disneyland Paris.

Center-Tainment AG, which sent tremors through the Magic Kingdom by announcing plans to buy debt-laden operator Euro Disney on Wednesday, called a news conference to launch a bid worth 11 euro cents a share and then drew back.

“Unfortunately our chief legal counsel is sick so we have had to postpone the action for a few days. The official offer will come in the next days,” said Kurt Andreesen, who identified himself as an independent investment banker for the company.

Shares in Euro Disney traded at nine cents, unchanged, after rising sharply on Wednesday on word of an offer.

The purported bid for the loss-making operator of Disneyland Paris, a European cousin of the U.S. Disney theme parks, started with a statement in broken English on Wednesday.

Center-Tainment CEO Ulf Werner, 60, told reporters the aim of the bid was to gain management control and renegotiate the operating licence agreement with Walt Disney Co.


It was unclear how Center-Tainment intended to overcome the legal hurdles that protect Euro Disney’s management, which is currently delegated to a 100 percent-subsidiary of Walt Disney.

Under Euro Disney’s statutes, the Walt Disney subsidiary has the exclusive right to nominate any new manager should the current arrangements change for whatever reason.

Center-Tainment insisted it could get around these rules if it achieved its goal of obtaining 50.01 percent of the company.

Andreesen said Center-Tainment would be in a position to manage the park “without Walt Disney”, if necessary, although Werner said this was not the company’s intention.


There was no immediate comment from Walt Disney.

Euro Disney said it had been unable to find out anything about its suitor. “Despite our attempts to obtain information from them, we have been unable to secure material information on this company,” a statement said.

An official at French regulator AMF, who declined to be quoted by name, said earlier the regulator had not been contacted by Center-Tainment.

German regulator BaFin said it had no background knowledge about Center-Tainment, although a bid by a Swiss company for a French one would not fall under its jurisdiction.

Management Control


Center-Tainment said 45 shareholders, led by an unidentified German company, owned 99 percent of the stock and that the remaining one percent was traded in the market.

Sceptical journalists pressed Werner and his entourage for details on their backers and their own backgrounds, but received vague answers. The company said its executives had decades of experience in the leisure industry, including indoor soccer.

Center-Tainment has a market capitalisation of 70 million euros after more than halving on Thursday, compared with Euro Disney’s 312 million euros. Any purchaser would face an immediate headache over Euro Disney’s debt of 1.6 billion euros.


Officials said they had bought Orca purely as a shell company for the purpose of mounting a Euro Disney bid.

Andreesen said the company had a plan B in case Euro Disney investors rejected its planned share offer. “Maybe there will be a cash offer, as a next step, if our share offer doesn’t work.”

Article sourced from Reuters.

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