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Warner multibillion dollar partnership with abu dhabi { September 26 2007 }

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Warner takes Hollywood to Abu Dhabi
By Joshua Chaffin in New York

Published: September 26 2007 19:04 | Last updated: September 26 2007 19:04

Warner Brothers, Time Warner’s film and TV division, has launched an “unprecedented” multibillion-dollar partnership to develop a media and entertainment hub in Abu Dhabi virtually from scratch.

The project, which is being undertaken with Aldar, Abu Dhabi’s largest real estate developer, and the emirate’s new Abu Dhabi Media Company, will include the simultaneous construction of a 6,000 acre theme park, hotel and cinemas as well as the creation of special funds to produce Arabic-language film, TV and video games.

Abu Dhabi will also establish a fund of $500m to co-finance production of Warner films – a figure that could grow over time.

Time Warner declined to comment on financia--l aspects of the deal, but said it was unprecedented in the scope and breadth of activities being undertaken. It is also significant, they said, in that it marked a long-term commitment to the Middle East by Hollywood’s largest studio.

“For our company and its further globalisation, growth for us is not just in?.?.?.?domestic markets. It’s largely outside the US,” said Dick Parsons, chief executive of Time Warner.

The deal follows a series of other tie-ups between western and Middle Eastern companies, many in the media and entertainment sector. Last month, Dubai World announced plans to invest up to $5.2bn in MGM Mirage, giving it a 9.2 per cent stake in the casino company.

Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, chairman of Aldar, said building a media hub would increase Abu Dhabi’s competitive advantage in the region, and forge a stronger relationship with the west.

Aldar plans to break ground on the theme park in 2009, with design and marketing assistance from Warner. It will add to a multibillion-dollar construction spree in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The deal seemed to underline the fact that Hollywood and its products have not been tarnished by the US government’s unpopularity around the world.

Most of Hollywood’s ticket sales are now generated outside the US. In an effort to develop foreign markets, Warner and other studios are investing in local productions in China, Russia, India and elsewhere.

“We’re anxious not just to be exporters of American films, but to be partners and support local films,” said Barry Meyer, Warner’s chief executive.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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Warner multibillion dollar partnership with abu dhabi { September 26 2007 }

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