NBC Uni sets Dubai theme park


NBC Universal has announced a licensing deal to create a Universal-branded theme park in Dubai set for a grand opening in 2010.

The $2 billion-plus project by Dubai developer Tatweer -- dubbed Universal City Dubailand -- will feature Uni-themed rides and attractions, as well as 4,000 hotel rooms, 100 restaurants, retail outlets and office space and residential units, officials said. The project will be located on a 22 million-square-foot parcel in booming Dubai, a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates.

Attractions will include ones based on the films "Jurassic Park" and "King Kong." The park will be divided into four "zones," including Hollywood, Metropolis, Adventure and Cartoon zones, officials said.

"There is no doubt that the new project will contribute to highlighting Dubai as a global tourist destination, providing the tourism sector -- one of Dubai's most active sectors -- with a strong drive to further diversify the economy," Tatweer executive chairman Saeed Al Muntafiq said.

He added that park visitors are expected to be drawn from "around the world, including the Asian subcontinent, central and east Europe and South Africa."

Universal Parks and Resorts chairman-CEO Thomas Williams, who announced the agreement Monday, said the park's location is strategically prime.

"The vision of the leadership of Dubai, the investor-supportive environment and the convenient geographic location of Dubailand, combined with other strategic and iconic offerings, all contribute in making Dubai our location of choice for our first branded theme park in the region," Williams said.

A Universal spokesman declined to discuss terms of the deal, but said there is no downside exposure for Uni. Most such arrangements provide the licensor income as a percentage of ticket revenue.

"I see nothing but upside for Universal," said David Davis, managing director of the investment firm FMV Opinions. "In emerging markets, it's always better to do licensing deals, because it's all upside and no downside."

Uni operates theme parks in California and Florida. It has licensing agreements with parks in Japan and Spain, as well as a park in development in Singapore.