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15 Mar 2019
IMG CEO denies sale rumours as Middle East feels economic pressure
By Tom Anstey
IMG CEO denies sale rumours as Middle East feels economic pressure
A number of theme parks have come to the UAE in recent years as part of the country's efforts to reduce its dependence on oil and improve its tourism standing

IMG Worlds of Adventure CEO Leonard Otto has said there are no plans to sell the record-breaking indoor theme park, following rumours of a takeover published by the media.

According to a Bloomberg report, the Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari Group – which owns Worlds of Adventure – is "exploring options for the business, including a possible sale".

IMG is currently working on a plan to restructure an AED1.2bn (US$327m, €289m, £247m) loan used to part-finance the AED3.7bn (US$1bn, €883m, £755m) attraction Otto said in a statement the talks were at an advanced stage.

"We are not planning to sell IMG in any form, neither partial and wholly. IMG is in advanced talks with banks on our syndicate-loan restructuring to support the business," said the statement.

A number of theme parks have come to the UAE in recent years as part of the country's efforts to reduce its dependence on oil and improve its tourism standing.

In 2017, Otto told Attractions Management that Dubai was on target to achieve the status of ‘Orlando 2.0’, with competition in the region priming Dubai to act as an attractions hub in the Middle East and further afield.

Although a target of 20 million visitors by 2020 was set for the country, low oil prices and lower visitor figures than expected has hampered a number of tourism projects, delaying new openings.

DXB Entertainments, which operates the rival Dubai Parks and Resorts, has been struggling to turn a profit since launch in December 2016. Its latest figures showing an AED1bn (US$272m, €240m, £209m) loss for 2018, though this figure was lower than the AED1.1bn (US$305m, €269m, £234m) loss declared for 2017. As a result of its financial struggles, the operator recently suspended development of its latest venture – a Six Flags theme park.

A major Fox theme park was also planned for the region but was put on hold in April last year, after its developer the Al Ahli Group revealed concerns that there was already a "serious supply" of theme parks in Dubai.

In 2017, IMG set out a five-year plan, announcing a second theme park opposite its existing site and plans to take the concept overseas in a global expansion. The indoor theme park, which covers 1.5 million sq ft, holds the record as the world's largest indoor theme park. It opened in 2016 and features IPs from brands including Marvel and Cartoon Network.

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