Dubai's troubled theme park operator to go private

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FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2016 file photo, people visit the Bollywood theme park at Dubai Parks & Resorts in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The owner of Dubai's struggling theme park operator is planning to sell itself to its majority shareholder, the company said in documents filed Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, with the Dubai Financial Market, capping years of plummeting income and stocks. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Dubai government-backed holding company made a formal bid on Sunday to buy out the city's struggling theme park operator, the company said in documents filed with the Dubai Financial Market, capping years of plummeting income and stocks.

Meraas Holding, the majority shareholder of DXB Entertainments, made a cash offer to acquire the debt-burdened company, which owns Dubai Parks & Resorts, offering to convert some $1.6 billion in debt, including a $403 million bond, into equity and buy out other shareholders at $0.02 for each share, below the $0.03 closing price on Sunday.

The firm's pain started well before the coronavirus pandemic wiped out Dubai’s tourism and entertainment industries, pushing back the much-anticipated World Expo 2020, which the city hoped would draw some 25 million visitors to its new theme parks.

With property prices far below peaks reached in 2014, DXB Entertainments hasn’t posted a profit in years and its plans for vast new amusement parks repeatedly have been scrapped. A massive park that opened near the Expo 2020 site reported a loss of $57 million last year and canceled an expansion. Last year, $454 million plans to open a Six Flags theme park were dashed when funds dried up.

Over the years, Dubai Parks & Resorts, which already includes Bollywood and movie-themed parks, as well as a Legoland, has changed CEOs, sought a freeze on loan repayments for three years and fired nearly a third of its staff.

The company’s statement on Sunday said nothing of the company’s financial troubles, only that Meraas would take on the debt and make a tender offer to the remaining minority shareholders.

Meraas, a firm backed by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, holds a 52% controlling stake in DXB Entertainments, whose biggest foreign shareholders include the Qatari and Kuwaiti sovereign wealth funds.