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).