Friday, 13th November 2009

Euro Disney reports €63m loss, flat attendance

This was never going to be a fairytale ending. Coming out of the hugely successful two-year 15th Anniversary, being hit by the worst economic crisis, some say, in memory and having no new attractions after a recent period of heavy investment.

However, with attendance up by 100,000 guests and swift cost reductions put in place, Euro Disney SCA appears to have weathered the storm. The damage is this: a net loss of €63m, 3.6% sliced off hotel occupancy and overall revenues down by 7%.

Near-constant discounting by as much as 40% off package prices clearly has taken a toll, as expected, with Hotel and Disney Village revenues being sliced by 8% — that’s a huge €40.9m. Equally, the wake-up call of the economic crisis has clearly made guests reassess their spending, down 5% to €44.22. A €2 dip per person might not seem a lot, but for every person passing through the gates, it contributes heavily towards another €27.6m negative.

The main points of the results are therefore:

• Attendance of 15.4 million with an 87% hotel occupancy rate
• Revenues decreased 7% to € 1,231 million, driven by a decline in guest spending
• Net loss of € 63 million, as lower revenues were partially offset by a 2% reduction in costs and expenses
• Generated Free Cash Flow, ending the year with € 340 million in cash and cash equivalents
• Opening of Toy Story Playland at the Walt Disney Studios® Park in 2010

Yes, you read that right — Toy Story Playland, being officially announced by Euro Disney SCA! So now we can be wholly sure this isn’t the “most committed disinformation campaign ever”. But, as attraction announcements go, it’s a whispered admittance indeed, being detailed later only under the New Generation Festival heading of “update on recent and coming events”:

New Generation Festival

In April 2010, Disneyland® Paris will launch the New Generation Festival, a celebration welcoming the most recent Disney characters into the Parks. Remy from Ratatouille, Princess Tiana from the upcoming Disney animated feature The Princess and the Frog and many more characters arrive at Disneyland Paris. These new characters will be showcased in the Once Upon a Dream Parade, Disney’s Stars ‘n’ Cars and on the Disney all stars express.

During the celebration in summer 2010, the Walt Disney Studios® Park will welcome three new family attractions in Toy Story Playland, inspired by the animated Disney-Pixar feature Toy Story. With oversized decor, guests will have the impression that they’ve been reduced to the size of Andy’s toys as they come to life in Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin and RC Racer.

Any other Disney resort would have accompanied this release with concept art or splashy press releases filled with quotes from Imagineers about how this land will redefine the universe. Perhaps we should be glad Euro Disney SCA take such a solemn attitude to new attractions? At least CEO Philippe Gas is excited, and pleased about the group’s performance in the challenging times, as he commented:

“During the fiscal year, we were faced with the most challenging economic environment in our history, which drove certain fundamental changes in consumer behavior. These changes included booking significantly closer to their visits, searching for promotional offers and travelling closer to their homes. As a result, we adapted our offers to address our guests’ changing needs. This decision delivered record park attendance of 15.4 million and an 87% hotel occupancy rate, down from last year but high by industry standards.

We saw our guest mix change, as attendance was driven by French and Belgian markets, offsetting significant weakness from Spain and the United Kingdom. These changes also impacted guest spending and hotel occupancy, lowering our revenues. Throughout the year we also balanced our promise of a high-quality Disney entertainment experience for our guests while managing costs.

The strength of the Disney brand and the attractiveness of our Resort as Europe’s number one tourist destination position us well when the recovery of the economies of our key markets and the leisure and tourism industry occur. We continue to invest in the long-term growth of our Company and we look forward to opening Toy Story Playland, inspired by the popular Disney-Pixar Toy Story characters and films, at the Walt Disney Studios Park in summer 2010.”

The resort was certainly lucky, in fact, to have been hit by this recession just as it was coming out of its most successful years to date. Had this crisis happened any earlier, the result could have been disastrous. As it stands, it’s interesting to look at the figures from this year and those quoted in the report from 2007. It’s not a full-scale slip-up by any means. Damage has been done, but should things begin to improve over the next year it may only lead to a set-back of plans and profits by a few years.

Throwing the €25m of royalty payments to The Walt Disney Company and €15.1m of loan interest onto their debt pile, Euro Disney SCA still paid off their planned debt repayments for the year and plan to pay back a healthy €89.9m more of existing debt in the 2010 financial year.

A taste of what the situation could be if things truly don’t get better comes further into the report, where it is stated:

For fiscal year 2010, if compliance with financial performance covenants cannot be achieved, the Group will have to appropriately reduce operating costs, curtail a portion of planned capital expenditures and/or seek assistance from TWDC or other parties as permitted under the debt agreements.

So, let’s hope that’s not the case. Further reductions in operating costs could almost certainly push the resort to breaking point, losing guests due to poor quality service and experience. On that subject, it’s nice at least to see that this year’s cost reductions added up: Thanks to all those shortened attraction hours, cancelled quality entertainment and other drops in Disney quality, the group managed to cut spending by 2%.

Euro Disney also seem confident of their ability to survive any continued losses in future:

Although no assurance can be given, management believes the Group has adequate cash and liquidity for the foreseeable future based on existing cash positions, liquidity from the € 100.0 million line of credit available from TWDC, and use of the conditional deferrals.

Indeed, that free cash in the group’s pocket now amounts to a not-too-shabby €340.3 million. Whilst it’s certainly good to see the resort has that much of a “buffer” for itself, things could soon get shakey should the group start spending €100 million on a Convention Centre here, or tens of millions on an expensive new attraction there. Just look what happened with the failed opening of Walt Disney Studios Park.

Everything considered, we probably shouldn’t be too disappointed that the dull announcement of Toy Story Playland was the only thing keeping us fans happy (or not, as may be the case for some) in this release. With a date of 2015 set for those new resort developments to near completion, there’s still plenty of time and Euro Disney SCA will likely want to wait a little longer to sign those dotted lines.

Better safe than sorry.

• Read the full 2009 Annual Results here (PDF).
• Read the Walt Disney Company 2009 Annual Report here (PDF).

Thursday, 12th November 2009

Analysts predict plunge into red for Euro Disney

It was all looking so good. The 15th Anniversary extended, record attendance figures pushing above 15 million, three years of new attractions, hotel occupancy reaching saturation point and, this time last year, the resort’s first profit in almost 10 years.

Back then, they just about crawled towards €2 million in the black. All things considered, today will most certainly see the resort slip painfully back into the red.

Journalist Christian Sylt shared an article with DLRP Today published in The Telegraph newspaper last week, reporting on analyst predictions of a sharp decline in revenue.

It doesn’t make for fun reading.

Theme park operator Euro Disney is expected to post a sharp decline in revenue, plunging it from net profit into loss, when it announces its results on Thursday.

The company, which runs the Disneyland Paris resort on the outskirts of the French capital, has been battered by the downturn as more holidaymakers have stayed at home and the pound has reached record lows against the euro.

In 2008 Euro Disney posted a €1.7m net profit, its first in more than five years, as revenue rose 9pc to €1.3bn on the back of record attendance of 15.3m people. The recession looks to have put paid to this being repeated.

“I think the attendance could be flat,” said one Paris-based analyst. “The big issue for me is the prices.”

As Christian goes on to report, Euro Disney SCA’s operating loss in just the first six months of 2009 was €85.4m, nearly double its deficit from the same period the previous year.

Flat attendance would certainly be troubling, given the almost continuous 20%, 30% and even 40% discounts the resort has been running this year, desperately trying to keep up the momentum gained in previous years. But naturally, slicing 40% off the income from a package holiday presents a disastrous outlook for the resort’s revenue.

Toy Soldiers Revenue Drop

All this puts into question whether Euro Disney really could accompany the report with an announcement of new attractions, or as heard most recently, that new Convention Centre and resort development.

If the money’s there, it’s certainly more positive to be reporting losses alongside announcements of investments which should build future growth. The Convention Centre would tap in properly to the business market, a new hotel would allow the resort to capture more guests at peak periods, the signature World of Disney store might help the parks’ traditionally low guest spending and new attractions could stop attendance slipping backwards — since clearly unimaginative filler like Mickey’s Magical Party has failed to inspire during the global recession.

Of course, whatever happens, there’ll be one bit of good news when the sun rises over Disneyland Paris later: Toy Story Playland will finally be officially announced by Euro Disney SCA. Er, won’t it? Well, better late than never.

Brace yourselves, people.

• Read the rest of the article, including a background of the resort’s finances, here.

Image © Disney.

Wednesday, 4th November 2009

Forget Shanghai, Paris lets slip major projects

As the official Disney Parks Blog posted a remarkably… unremarkable confirmation that the Shanghai Disneyland project is moving ahead, newspaper Le Parisien slipped out a fascinating article all about the future of our resort. Talking to Francis Borezée, Vice President of Resort and Real Estate Development, they summarise the next phase of development in the Val d’Europe district, from the expansion of Disney Village to the long-awaited new Convention Centre.

Most of this won’t shock or stun a keen follower of Disneyland Paris news, but one element certainly might: the addition of dates, the revelation that all this is finally due to be officially announced, very soon indeed. And, whilst a project being led by a huge Convention Centre doesn’t seem immediately exciting, the development and its surrounding expansions will change the landscape of the resort beyond recognition.

Where now, as soon as you reach the lonely IMAX cinema and games arcade, the old beet fields suddenly stretch as far as the eye can see, soon you’ll be at the heart of a whole new, very urban, Disney development, comprising the new hotels and Village expansion it so badly needs.

Here’s the article in full, skip down for the summary:

Disney dévoile ses nouveaux projets

Tourisme d’affaires, logements, extension des zones de loisirs et de commerces, le Val-d’Europe poursuit son développement sous l’impulsion du géant américain.

Qu’on se le dise : le groupe aux grandes oreilles n’a pas fini de laisser son empreinte sur le paysage urbain du Val-d’Europe. Fraîchement nommé à la tête des activités de développement urbain et vités touristique du groupe, Francis Borezée dévoile ses principaux projets pour le développement à venir de l’agglomération.

Des programmes qui dessinent les contours de la phase 4 du développement du Val d’Europe, actuellement en discussion avec les représentants de l’Etat et les élus locaux.

Des réalisations sur quinze ans. Chargé du codéveloppement de l’agglomération en vertu d’une convention signée avec l’Etat en 1987, Euro Disney SCA a rempli au- aujourd’hui plus de la moitié du contrat. « Nous avons d’ores et déjà développé 1 100 ha sur 1 943, ce qui veut dire qu’on a encore quinze ans de développement devant nous », résume Francis Borezée.

Actuellement en cours, l’achèvement des programmes de la phase 3 – finition de la place d’Ariane, du quartier résidentiel des Lacs ou réalisation de bureaux près de la gare RER — va coïncider avec le lance- lancement des nouveaux projets de l’opérateur privé.

Cap vers le tourisme d’affaires. C’est la grande nouveauté annoncée par le directeur général adjoint d’Euro Disney SCA. Un gigantesque centre de congrès devrait voir le jour aux portes des parcs Disneyland, pour un budget d’investissement d’environ 100 millions d’euros. D’ici 2015, une première phase prévoit la construction d’un centre de 20 000 ha sur ce terrain coincé entre le parking Vinci et l’hôtel Newport. Une nouvelle gare TGV dédiée et un hôtel de 750 chambres seront construits sur le site, qui pourra accueillir des groupes de 4 000 personnes.

Parallèlement, les activités touristiques classiques continueront de se développer, avec l’extension prévue du Disney-Village et la construction de nouvelles attractions dans les parcs… qui devraient faire l’objet d’une annonce à la fin de l’année.

De nouveaux logements en perspective. Le développement résidentiel reste une priorité pour Francis Borezée, qui prévoit la construction de « 500 à 600 » nouveaux logements, dont « au moins 20 % de logements sociaux » par an d’ici à 2017. Le centre urbain devrait s’étendre avec de nouveaux logements assortis d’équipements publics, au nord de la nouvelle mairie de Serris ainsi qu’au sud-ouest du centre de secours de Chessy et au nord du boulevard circulaire. Pour améliorer le cadre de vie, un nouveau bassin et des espaces verts devraient également voir le jour (voir carte).

D’autres constructions pourraient également apparaître en périphérie, à Magny-le-Hongre et à Bailly-Ro- Romainvilliers, avec un programme mêlant maisons individuelles et logements collectifs dans le quartier des Courtalins. A terme, Francis Borezée prévoit une croissance de la population « jusqu’à 55 000 ou 60 000 habitants », soit un peu moins que l’Etat, qui envisage jusqu’à 80 000 habitants au Val-d’Europe.

L’extension du centre commercial Val-d’Europe. Satisfait du succès du pôle marchand, qui « résiste mieux à la crise » que la moyenne des centres commerciaux, le développeur prévoit son extension, avec une « nouvelle ouverture inter- intermédiaire » de la galerie. Sans oublier l’inauguration, en mars 2010, d’un immense magasin Castorama consacré à la décoration d’intérieur, assorti de 600 à 700 nouvelles places créées sur un niveau intermédiaire dans le parking du centre commercial.

La poursuite du développement. Les entreprises ne seront pas oubliées par l’opérateur d’aménagement privé, qui table sur l’extension du parc d’entreprise Goodman, à Bailly-Romainvilliers. Sans oublier de « constituer une nouvelle offre de bureaux prêts à l’emploi près de la gare, dans le centre urbain du Val-d’Europe. » En effet, les bureaux déjà réalisés dans ce secteur sont déjà occupés «à près de 95%».

The reason none of these grand proposals come as a surprise? Because plans showing exactly these developments have been public for probably over a year now, showing the urban streets of Val d’Europe connecting up with the resort centre.

Forget Shanghai, Paris lets slip major projects

Francis Borezée notes that, after having developed 1,100 hectares of 1,943 ha available since 1987, the resort still has 15 years of development ahead of it. He confirms that Phase 4 of the Val d’Europe development is now in discussions with the state and local town councillors, and that the completion of various Phase 3 projects (housing and office developments, the town squares) will coincide with the launch of plans for the next phase of their private, resort expansion projects.

So here’s where it gets interesting: The Convention Centre, having waited to be green-lit for over ten years now, will see its first phase developed and built between now and 2015. For an investment of €100 million Euros, the “gigantestque” centre totalling 20,000 ha of floorspace will take shape on the land between the existing Vinci (Disney Village) parking lot and Newport Bay Club.

The article confirms a 750-room hotel will be included in this phase, stating “on the site”. As can be seen in the plans released, there are in fact plots for two new Disney Hotels nearby. It remains to be seen whether they’d choose the hotel next to the Convention Centre or the one across the road, joined onto the Disney Village expansion, to build first.

It also then confirms the new TGV Station, but — especially when you look at the plan they’ve drawn up themselves — seems to have the impression that this will be a whole new station. Technically, it won’t. Similarly stuck on the drawing board for a decade, this will merely be an additional entrance and exit to the platforms of the existing Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy station.

Slotted in right next to the Disney Village multi-story parking, it’ll provide a new booking hall and facilities on the South side of the resort hub, allowing convention-goers and Val d’Europe residents far easier access to the platforms, without having to cross the resort hub.

Next, something we all want to hear — “Parallel to this, the resort’s traditional tourism activity will continue to be developed, with the expected expansion of Disney Village and the construction of new attractions in the theme parks… which will be the object of an announcement at the end of the year”.

Continuing on, the report discusses new housing at Val d’Europe, the creation of parks and lakes as seen in the plans, plus developments to the Shopping Centre, which is apparently beating the economic crisis more than most similar malls. Join the news recently that Val d’Europe will become home to a brand new swimming pool Aquatics Centre, and the rumours of the French Open, and things are looking good.

Forget Shanghai, Paris lets slip major projects

But you’ve probably stopped reading now, right? Knowing that a completion date has finally been set for all those expansions, and the promise of imminent announcements for Disney Village and new park attractions later this year…

Forget Shanghai, that’s the Parisian Surprise we needed.

Plans © Disney.

Tuesday, 13th October 2009

Paris operations chief named Disneyland president

The coveted position in California opened up after previous president Ed Grier stepped down last week, right on schedule at 3 years into the job.

For newly-promoted Kalogridis, this also ends a three-year reign. George became Chief Operating Officer (COO, or French title, Directeur Général Adjoint: Opérations) for Euro Disney SCA, operating group of Disneyland Paris, back in 2006 after Karl Holz was promoted to Chief Executive Officer.

George Kalogridis

In that time, we’ve seen new parades, new shows and no less than six new attractions — including of course, the formidable Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. We’ve also enjoyed a renewed focus on the resort’s upkeep and details, increasingly wonderful Cast Members, new initiatives like Extra Magic Hours and E-Tickets, and in pure number terms, the most successful years of the resort’s life to date.

Meanwhile, characters have taken over some of the magic of the original park, proper entertainment has been shunned in favour of street dance-alongs, attractions have been forced into reduced operating hours, hotel pools have stayed closed until 3pm, the official website has remained incredibly poor, and progress, generally, at Walt Disney Studios Park has been disappointingly slow and half-hearted. And of course, during his entire run as COO, George Kalogridis would never have seen the front of Disney Studio 1 — it being flanked first by Chicken Little and Cars advertisements, then later a “refurbishment” covering for the past 14 months.

Overseeing such a large programme of expansion should certainly have set him in good step for the continuing billion-dollar expansion and improvements still ahead at Disney’s California Adventure park, if his time overseeing the opening of that park didn’t already — he was their senior vice president of operations first, from 2000 to 2002. Further back, he has history in Paris as one of the original Cast Members on the pre-opening development team in 1988.

The past three years have been spectacularly successful for Disneyland Paris, and we can only hope that the incoming COO is somebody who knows exactly what Disneyland should be — (preferably the Californian or Japanese version, eh?) — and how to achieve that kind of quality more consistently in Paris.

Euro Disney SCA have yet to announce a replacement.

UPDATE (01:46 GMT) — The OC Register “Around Disney” blog has just posted an exclusive Q&A with George Kalogridis, with several interesting comments on the similarities between the California and Paris resorts and some operational tricks learnt in Paris. Here’s an excerpt:

Q. What have you learned from other resorts and your previous stint here that you can bring to the new job?

A. Probably, the one thing that’s most interesting is Disneyland Paris and Disneyland California are the two sites that are the most similar. Both have two theme parks, resort hotels and a retail-entertainment center. Both are in an urban environment. Secondly … in the last three years, I’ve opened a new major attraction each year in my time in Paris. So, I think I also have very recent experience opening a big new attraction. I see the same opportunity here.

Q. What lessons did you learn from the similarities of Disneyland and Disneyland Paris?

A. I think the dynamic of guest visitors and whether or not they choose to cross over to the other park and what makes them choose to do that. It’s an interesting dynamic. There’s no recipe for it. But it’s a big issue as to how you operate. I think we had some learning in Paris. For example, turning the direction of the parade made a big difference in terms of the crush exiting to get to the other park. Again, it’s not that it’s the right thing or the wrong thing here, but it’s learning. … I think the Paris site and this site are the only ones where guests can walk between two parks without a mode of transport.

And some good news for Disneyland Resort fans (and MiceAge columnists) — George states very specifically that “I’m in the parks and hotels more than I’m not. I’m a visible person. […] My goal is to be very visible. And in my time with the company, that’s always proven to be something that’s doable.”

Read the full Q&A here, or the original OC Register news item here.

Monday, 3rd August 2009

Third Quarter 2009: Dip but no dive, despite economy

The big figure is this: 7% – the drop in revenues during both the Third Quarter (April, May, June) and now the entire nine months of the financial year so far.

It’s interesting to point out that this quarter was the first when the new events of Mickey’s Magical Party took effect, and important to note that — unlike last year — it includes revenues from the Easter school holiday period, which came later this year. A fact that the company made pains to point out in the First Half Announcement (PDF), when revenues fell by 7.3%, but has been entirely left out of this report.

Let’s take a look at a few key figures:

• 1% Increase in park attendance in Third Quarter

Unless the fourth quarter proves disastrous, the resort still looks set for yet another record-breaking year, despite the awful trading conditions — if only by a tiny amount. Attendance in the First Half rose from 7 million to 7.1 million. The number keeps being pushed up to levels we could have only dreamed of back in the first half of this decade, but is it all show?

• 4% Decrease in park spending, room spending for past nine months

More people visiting from close to Paris, and France and Belgium, with fewer from further afield (Spain, UK, Netherlands) makes good attendance numbers but bad spending numbers — guests from nearby are less likely to load up on merchandise, less likely to spend big on meals and less likely to stay on-site. As a result…

• 3.8 Percentage point decrease in hotel room occupancy

Perhaps that 8th Disney Hotel can wait after all. If 3.8% over the year seems like bad news, the figure for the Third Quarter alone was 6.1 percentage points. Fewer corporate events and fewer guests from Spain and the UK have apparently taken their toll on hotel figures.

Let’s not forget that the UK in particular has been shovelled an almost endless slate of huge booking discounts and drastic offers this year, with 40% sliced off bookings for months in a row. Is it a good sign that the revenues above weren’t entirely disastrous despite this cut in income, or a bad sign that — even with 40% off — visits from the UK dwindled for the first time in years?

Such a dramatic fall in the previous quarter does call up questions on the pricing of Disney Hotels, whether they provide value for money and whether guests will pay that steep premium. The news from Q3 is looking rather negative. It’s nice to think that the hotels could return to sane pricing and suddenly attract more bookings to offset that lower income, but perhaps the turnaround wouldn’t be so quick.

The big cheese Philippe Gas, CEO of Euro Disney S.A.S. gives unusual mention of “closely managing costs” and curtailing “certain capital spending” in his comment, as well as weirdly-veiled hint towards Toy Story Playland opening in 2010:

“Consistent with the broader tourism industry in Europe, our revenues have been impacted by the challenging economic environment and consumer spending behavior. At the onset of the economic down turn, we implemented promotional offers to which our proximity markets in particular have responded. This decision has succeeded in driving attendance to Disneyland Paris, confirming the strong affinity for quality Disney entertainment, while at the same time impacting guest spending and margins.

We are closely managing our costs and have curtailed certain capital spending in this current environment. However, in line with our long-term growth strategy we continue to invest in the resort and are developing new attractions to open next year.”

You can read the full report here (PDF).

Overall, it’s nowhere near as disastrous as it could have been — luckily the economic crisis hit just as Disneyland Paris was coming out of its wildly popular 15th Anniversary Celebration and the two most successful years in its history. Creating this limited-time cause to visit is obviously still paying off, though the follow-up of Mickey’s Magical Party doesn’t appear to be looking quite so tempting. Whether the resort will still be able to draw record numbers with simply renamed theme years and a redressed Disney Characters’ Express each year doesn’t look so certain.

The fall in theme park revenues is disappointing because of the reason behind it: reported to be caused by admissions and merchandise. With the citizens of Paris being almost constantly flogged ridiculous €1 tickets and even €1 Francilien annual passports, this heavy-handed price-cutting doesn’t seem too clever, at least to an outsider. As for merchandise, the years of diminishing imagination, design and manufacture and all-too-well-known overpricing appears to have caught up with the resort.

People do still have money to spend — especially those without children — the economic whatever-we’re-calling-it-now serving only as a giant wake up call to past over-spending. With every purchase we now ask ourselves– “Do I really need this? Is it worth the price?”. Unfortunately, with the generally uninspiring and child-orientated ranges pushed to the front of each boutique, the answer is often “no”. Guests take their extra Euros home with them.

The report ends with a bit of humour, at least: “In the coming months, the Company will be sharing details of new attractions that have begun construction and will be opened next year.”

Such mystery!

Thursday, 29th January 2009

First Quarter 2009: Strong park growth but overall dip

With widespread economic downturn and several European countries officially in recession, Disneyland Resort Paris has been facing a tough time these past three months, its’ parade of scoring a modest profit for the first time since 2001 being, in true Marne-la-Vallée fashion, well and truly rained upon.

• Theme parks attendance up 8%, driven by more guests visiting from France

Though today’s report states that theme park attendance increased by 8% due to more visitors in France, it also goes on to add that this was partially offset by fewer visitors from Spain and the United Kingdom, two of the countries from which attendance had been growing strongly in the past 18 months.

From France itself, some of this attendance gain will no doubt be from the resort’s promotions for a “€1 Ticket” for children visiting with adults.

• Resort revenues increased 3% to €324 million

With this continued attendance surge, the Theme Parks managed to increase their takings by €11 million (6.3%), from €175.1 million in 2007 to €186.1 million for the three months up to 31st December 2008.

A strong increase, certainly, but the skies become less blue when you note that Hotels and Disney Village revenues actually fell €2.1 million to €124.6 million, due to a decrease in room occupation of 2.3 percentage points compared to the 2007/08 period.

This is clearly linked to the decrease in visitors from Spain and the UK, who would naturally require a room near the magic, unlike those visiting with reduced price tickets from within France. It meant, overall, 12,000 fewer “room nights” than in October, November and December 2007.

• Total revenues decreased 4% to €328 million, due to lower real estate development activity

But, ultimately, whilst the operations of the Disneyland Resort Paris assets could have pulled through with a modest growth, real estate sales in Val d’Europe and the wider resort area were lower in this period to the extent that any gain was completely swallowed up.

The report states: “Prior year quarter real estate revenues included €12.5 million of revenue related to the sale of a property in Val d’Europe which had been subject to a long term ground lease. The remaining decrease resulted from a reduction in the number of transactions closed in the period to one, compared to four transactions closed in the prior-year quarter period.”

From revenues of €24.4 million last year, only €3.4 million was taken this year. This segment of the group’s income often does vary wildly quarter-to-quarter, rarely remaining consistent.

In this period, however, it didn’t help a tough First Quarter one bit.

Philippe Gas, Chief Executive Officer of Euro Disney S.A.S. commented:

“We delivered increased resort revenues during this first quarter despite the challenging economic environment, by adapting our offers to drive guest visitation while addressing current consumer purchasing power constraints. The popularity of our Resort remained strong with Europeans as a short-break destination offering high quality Disney entertainment.

In 2009, there are even more reasons to visit Disneyland Resort Paris. We will launch a new, year-long celebration, and will bring more Disney stories to life at the Walt Disney Studios Park by unveiling the Playhouse Disney Live on Stage attraction and a Disney Stars and Cars show.

We recognize we are not immune to the impact of a sustained economic downturn and remain committed to managing costs while continuing to deliver the quality Disney experience our guests expect from us.”

With the overwhelmingly successful 15th Anniversary now almost at its end and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror over one year old, Euro Disney SCA had better hope that enough visitors want the resort — and Mickey’s Magical Party — to put a smile on their down-turned faces that the remainder of this financial year sees those steady, overall, increases return.

— You can download the full First Quarter 2009 report here (PDF).

Sunday, 28th December 2008

2008 Annual Report: In profit, Over 15 million guests

In 2002, Euro Disney S.C.A. learnt the hard way not to spread itself too thinly too soon. After the costly opening of Walt Disney Studios Park, it was hit by a general downturn in tourism which led to its 2001 profit of €30.5m plunging to a loss of €33.1m the next year. In 2008, after two very positive years and great leaps in attendance and occupancy, the resort has proudly posted its first net profit since the opening of that second gate.

The key points of the 2008 Annual Report were as follows:

Net profit of €2m, third consecutive year of growth
• EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) increased 21% to €249m
• Park attendance up 0.8m to 15.3m
• Hotel room occupancy up 1.6ppt to 90.9%

The net profit of €1.7m cements a growth trend which saw losses shrink from €88.6m in 2006 to €41.6m in 2007, showing steady growth for three years running. Some reports suggest that the operating group would have achieved a far greater profit still, but wisely chose to move €30m directly into paying off its long-standing debt of over €2bn rather than take this as (subsequently tax-deducted) profit.

In the Theme Parks segment, revenues were up 8.7% to €715.8m, primarily reflecting the increased attendance and a 3% increase in average spending per guest, to €46.3. The increase in Theme Parks attendance was driven by higher guest visitation from the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom.

Park attendance of 15.3 million guests is by far the highest in the resort’s history, the previous record being 14.5 million last year, for the first time marking an entry in the kind of attendance levels hoped for during the original construction of the resort and again during the construction of Walt Disney Studios Park. This comes in the same year that the resort celebrated welcoming its 200,000,000th (two hundred millionth) park guest.

Hotels & Disney Village saw its segment revenues rise 6.7% to €515.6m, reflecting the increase in room occupancy and a 7% increase in average guest spending per room to €211.4m. The increase in occupancy represented an extra 37,000 room nights compared to Fiscal Year 2007, driven mostly by more visitors from the United Kingdom and Spain.

Commenting on the results, new CEO Philippe Gas said:

“We reached an important milestone in 2008 by achieving profitability. Our revenues, theme parks attendance and hotel occupancy contributed to our performance which is noteworthy given the economic environment.

The popularity of Disneyland Resort Paris, Europe’s number one tourist destination, continued to grow as guests discovered our new attractions including the iconic Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Cars Race Rally, Crush’s Coaster, the interactive experience Stitch Live! and the High School Musical shows inspired by the popular Disney franchise.

We are convinced that our development strategy, together with the commitment of our cast members and the strength of the Disney brand, position us well for long-term growth.”

The report also contained an update of upcoming events:

“In line with our ongoing development strategy, in the Walt Disney Studios Park, Playhouse Disney – Live on Stage!, will provide the opportunity for our younger guests to join friends from the Disney Channel in an immersive entertainment experience, for the launch of the summer season. The park will also debut Disney’s Stars ‘n’ Cars, a new Hollywood-style show starring characters from Toy Story, Snow White, Monsters Inc., Mulan, The Little Mermaid, and more.”

— You can download the full Annual Report here (PDF).

Saturday, 27th December 2008

Philippe Gas takes the helm at Euro Disney SAS

Replacing Karl Holz, who announced his departure eight months ago, Philippe Gas has effectively assumed the position of “president” of Disneyland Resort Paris, alongside Ed Grier of Disneyland Resort in California, Meg Crofton of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Toshio Kagami of Tokyo Disney Resort and Bill Ernest of Hong Kong Disneyland. Holz is now president of New Vacation Operations at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.

The operating company, known more casually amongst fans as simply “Euro Disney SCA” or “Euro Disney”, to avoid the lengthy exposition of the group’s complicated structure seen above, released a quick biography of our new CEO:

Philippe Gas

Philippe, 45, is the first CEO of Disneyland Resort Paris who was a member of the opening team. As a 17-year Disney veteran, Philippe has extensive experience with both Euro Disney and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts worldwide. After having completed his law studies at the University of Paris Assas, he joined the Disney organization in 1991 as Finance Controller and held a variety of positions at the Resort over the next six years. In 1997, he was promoted to Director, Corporate Compensation and moved to The Walt Disney Company headquarters in Burbank, California. In 2000, he served as Regional Vice President, Human Resources, The Walt Disney Company Asia-Pacific, overseeing the HR strategy in 13 countries in Asia – first based in Tokyo and then in Hong Kong.

In 2004, he returned to Disneyland Resort Paris as Senior Vice President, Human Resources, where he was responsible for all HR Operations for its more than 12,300 cast members. In 2005 he was appointed Senior Vice President, International Human Resources, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and in 2006, he was promoted to his current position as Executive Vice President, Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts worldwide. In this role, he was responsible for the Human Resources strategy and services for nearly 100,000 Cast Members.

The official corporate website also posted an interview with Philippe, with comments from Gas about his recent work for Disney, his priorities at Disneyland Resort Paris and — most exciting of all — his plans for the future:

Question: You have returned to Disneyland® Resort Paris after working several years abroad for Disney. What is it like?

Philippe Gas: I am proud to return to Disneyland Resort Paris, the place where it all started for me. I joined the Disney organization in 1991 and was a member of the opening team at Disneyland Resort Paris. In Paris, the United States and Asia, I have held a variety of positions, notably in defining global human resource strategies. I have learned a lot from my international experience, but Disneyland Resort Paris has always held a special place in my heart. I am happy to be back and to see how much the Resort and its more than 13,000 Cast Members have developed over the years. It is our Cast Members who provide the service and ensure the high quality experience for which Disney is known. I am glad to lead our efforts in building the Resort’s future.

Question: Disneyland Resort Paris is the #1 tourist destination in Europe. What are your priorities in the next years?

Philippe Gas: It is a particularly exciting time for Disneyland Resort Paris, optimistic and dynamic. I am grateful to join such a great international team. Together, we are committed to the company’s long-term strategy and growth as Europe’s top tourist destination. We will keep working on driving results towards profitability, providing a high-quality guest experience, and investing in the personal and professional development of our Cast Members. I have had the chance to grow within this company and I hope this will inspire others.

Question: What are your future projects?

Philippe Gas: Imagining, creating, developing and growing is, and always will be, top of mind for us. We have already served, entertained and touched the hearts of more than 200 million visitors. We intend to continue exceeding expectations to remain Europe’s most-visited tourist destination. We would like to welcome more and more families, by continuing to grow and provide the quality and creativity that only Disney can create. That’s why we are always innovating and working on future development. We are studying a variety of projects – some would enhance exciting assets, while others are on a grander scale. For example, we are interested in increasing the Resort’s hotel capacity, adding to our convention facilities, or enhancing the Disney® Village. We work and plan all the time – today, tomorrow, and for the years to come.

The thoughts of increasing hotel capacity, enhancing Disney Village and adding to convention facilities are all expertly-worded in order to give an impression of the company’s priorities yet not officially announce a single thing. “Increasing” hotel capacity, for example, may not technically mean new hotels, nor might “enhancing” Disney Village mean constructing new buildings.

The years of Karl Holz brought the resort huge prosperity and several brilliant new attractions, with a quite remarkable return to the kind of Disney quality and service we remembered from earlier years.

However, the resort and its parks are not quite in the home straight just yet. And, as we head into 2009 with the two-year 15th Anniversary coming to a close and the impending challenge of a successful follow-up to contend with, we can only wish Philippe Gas the best of luck — and hope, beyond the business ability, he has the same dream in his heart as we do…

— The official statement from the company can be found here (PDF).

Tuesday, 12th August 2008

200,000,000th guest arrives!

Imagine the scene… it’s just any regular morning at Disneyland Park. You walk through Fantasia Gardens at a brisk pace, deciding where you’re going to head first. You get your park ticket ready for the turnstile and step under Disneyland Hotel to the entrance gates.

But, when you put your ticket into the machine and step through, you’re surrounded by confetti, cheering, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Disney officials and a giant placard proclaiming you as the 200,000,000th (200 millionth) guests!


Today, Tuesday 12th August 2008, exactly that happened. The Yernaux family from Salon de Provence in France were given the momentous accolade of being our European Disney resort’s 200 millionth guests!

After a festive welcome and photos with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Euro Disney Vice President François Banon, they enjoyed an unforgettable day at the park littered with special exclusives and VIP experiences. This evening, they will enjoy a special dinner at Walt’s – An American Restaurant in Main Street, U.S.A. and have been upgraded to a suite in the brand new Empire State Club at Disney’s Hotel New York.


With more than 14.5 million guests last year, fans with a calculator and a list of previous attendance records could well see that this occasion would soon arrive — as of 31st March 2008, overall attendance at the resort’s two parks totalled 194.1 million. And, as the Disney Hotels can now boast an occupancy rate of 89.3%, it all serves to confirm, 16 years on, that Disneyland Resort Paris is far and away the leading tourist destination in Europe.

The last attendance milestone, the 100 millionth guest, happened just 7 years ago in January 2001.


Today’s 200 million barrier also gives us an update on attendance so far this year. With first half (from October 2007) attendance of 7 million, we can now add 5.9 million — so far — for the second half. This gives us 12.9 million guests through the gates in financial year 2008 so far and therefore only 1.6 million more needed between now and the end of the year on 30th September to keep a steady 14.5 million, last year’s attendance record.

By comparison, last year’s second half brought us an incredible 8.4 million visitors, the highest in the resort’s history. A successful final month-and-a-half could well allow the resort to beat last year’s record. Beating the elusive 15 million mark, however — the annual figure Disney originally wanted after the opening of Walt Disney Studios Park — remains as challenging as ever.

[Pictures © Disney]

Thursday, 24th July 2008

Modest gains in Third Quarter results as Fiscal Year 2008 holds strong

The financial year of 2008 thus far has been nothing short of a fairytale success. For the nine months ended 30th June 2008, overall revenues increased an impressive 12% on the same period last year.

Revenues for the Third Quarter itself rose only 3%, however, which, despite the displacement of the important Easter Holiday compared to the 2007 results, could suggest that the resort is having to work hard this Summer to pushing itself beyond the record achievements made last year.

Here are the main points of this announcement, which does not include exact numbers for statistics such as park attendance, accumulating all the figures so far for the past nine months:

‘¢ Overall revenues for the nine months ended June 30, 2008 increased 12% to € 937.4 million from € 834.3 million in the prior-year period.

‘¢ Theme parks revenues increased 13% to € 498.4 million from € 443.0 million in the prior-year period, driven by increases in attendance and average spending per guest.

‘¢ Hotels and Disney Village revenues increased 10% to € 371.4 million from € 338.0 million in the prior-year period, primarily driven by increases in average spending per room and hotel occupancy.

‘¢ Real estate revenues increased € 16.8 million from the prior-year period to € 25.6 million, principally resulting from € 12.5 million of revenue related to the first quarter 2008 sale of a property in Val d’Europe which had been subject to a long term ground lease.

‘¢ Revenues for the Third Quarter increased 3% to € 331.9 million despite the shift of the Easter Holiday in some of our key markets from April in the prior-year period to March in the current-year period.

Commenting on the results, Karl L. Holz, Chief Executive Officer of Euro Disney S.A.S, said:

“We are pleased with our continued solid results through the Third Quarter, as we move into the peak summer season. The Celebration Continues… Big Time!, particularly as our guests respond positively to our new offerings in the Walt Disney Studios Park. Our guests are enjoying the thrills of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the magic of an interactive experience with a favorite Disney character in Stitch Live!. High School Musical 2 is also creating emotional connections through high energy performances and sing-along dance routines.

Our teams are fully mobilized to provide a high-quality guest experience through a combination of new services, iconic attractions and immersive entertainment that only Disney can create.”

So, how are things looking? Overall, very good indeed. There are no horror stories here or any reports which might make a shareholder nervous for the full Annual Report in November. The waters are calm, the course steady. Euro Disney SCA’s position is getting ever stronger.

With the displacement of the Easter Holiday this year to the second quarter, however, it is hard to gauge exactly how well the resort is still growing. An overall gain of just 3% in revenues compared to the same period last year does on first glance seem rather worrying considering the vast expenditure just made to build and promote an attraction as large as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, especially when you consider park attendance itself increased just 1% in the three months.

Worrying on one hand, yes, but on the other, it is still a gain — and a gain compared to the record 14.5 million visitors of last year at that. The resort is well on course to post a brand new (if only very modestly higher) visitor record in its Annual Report for 2008. Compared to the launch of Walt Disney Studios Park in 2002, which brought only a tiny attendance growth and a severe drop-off the next year, this at least proves that the incremental series of investments and relaunch of the destination for its 15th Anniversary was well-formulated and has good staying power.

The record achievements of last year will be hard to build upon in a big way so quickly, true, but they weren’t a flash in the pan — that’s the most important thing.

— You can see the full report as a PDF download here.

— Find our previous report on the First Half 2008 results here.

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