Swiss group unveils Euro Dis bid


PARIS -- Center-Tainment AG, a Swiss-based company that says it specializes in the leisure industry, announced Thursday at a press conference in Paris that it plans to launch a takeover bid for French theme-park operator Euro Disney.

As Center-Tainment, a publicly traded company in Frankfurt as of September, unveiled its hostile takeover aims, it offered no concrete goal or proof of legitimacy within the global marketplace.

The company, based in Zug, Switzerland, called the news conference to announce a bid worth 11 euro cents (14.6 cents) a share, then informed journalists that the bid will be postponed for a few days because their chief legal counsel was ill.

According to the company's independent investment banker and consultant Kurt W. Andreesen, Center-Tainment is "only the concept and the people behind it."

Center-Tainment said it plans to finance the takeover with a share swap -- 200 Euro Disney shares for every Center-Tainment share -- yet declined comment on nearly all questions about the details of such an exchange.

"We don't want to talk too much about the people behind us or with us," CEO Ulf H. Werner said. The company said its executives have decades of experience in the leisure industry, especially indoor soccer, but refused to disclose the names or affiliations of said executives.

Werner's proposal calls for an all-share offer for Euro Disney's free floating stock, aimed at giving Center-Tainment a 50.01% stake in the Paris theme park. Center-Tainment plans to utilize its own management once the takeover is finalized. Center-Tainment stocks are being sold at €13 ($17.23) per share, down from €34 ($45) a few days ago. With 10 million shares, the company has a market value of €130 million ($170 million) Andreesen said.

Yet Euro Disney doesn't appear to be threatened by the announcement. A statement released by Euro Disney S.C.A. said: "Despite our attempts to obtain information from them, we have been unable to secure material information on this company."

Andreesen claims that Center-Tainment hopes to negotiate a new contract with the Walt Disney Co., which has a 39.8% ownership share of Euro Disney. If Euro Disney investors reject the standing offer, Andreesen said "maybe there will be a cash offer, as a next step, if our share offer doesn't work."

Center-Tainment offered no details regarding how they will alleviate Euro Disney's accumulated debt, nor how they plan to convince Euro Disney shareholders to swap their shares. Andreesen and Werner responded to skeptical journalists' questions with increasingly vague responses.

When asked to identify which bank would be involved, Werner said: "It will be a Swiss bank." After further questioning, he added: "There are several banks ... regarding the lead position of the bank, we are still negotiating."