Shanghai Disneyland Expected to Break Even in First Year

Power 100: Bob Iger - Getty-H 2016
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Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger touts the strong early performance of the Chinese theme park, which has welcomed 4 million guests since its June debut.

Walt Disney says its new $5.5 billion theme park in Shanghai will come close to breaking even by the end of its first full year of operation in 2017.

The Shanghai Disney Resort's launch has gone smother than past Disney theme park debuts, but little had been known about its actual performance. Disney CEO Bob Iger finally offered a first look at the park's visitor numbers on its Thursday earnings call, saying the park took in 4 million guests during its first four months of operation.

"Some of you may infer from this early performance that we could achieve 10 million in attendance in the park's first year, a number we would be thrilled with," Iger added, while emphasizing the company wasn't providing formal guidance. "It's very clear our guests are thoroughly enjoying it. They're enthusiastically embracing our stories and characters."

Disney CFO Christine McCarthy added: "As Bob discussed, we couldn't be more pleased with the launch of Shanghai Disneyland. The financial results for the park's first full quarter of operations were ahead of our expectations. As we look to fiscal 2017, we expect Shanghai Disney Resort to be very close to break-even for the year."

On Wednesday, Disney announced that it had already broken ground on an expansion in Shanghai. A new Toy Story Land — the Chinese park's seventh themed area — will open in 2018, featuring three attractions and a character meet-and-greet.

Analysts were welcoming of the Shanghai Disney data. Stifel, Nicolaus analyst Benjamin Stifel lauded "a strong start to Shanghai Disney, with the park expected to be around break-even by the end of the year — much quicker than other international parks."

"We had been forecasting break-even for Shanghai in fiscal year 2017, but still consider these results encouraging," added Steven Cahall of RBC Capital Markets.  

Georg Szalai in London contributed to this report.