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Euro Disney loses its magic

Mickey's 75th birthday spoilt by European business figures
Mickey's 75th birthday spoilt by European business figures

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PARIS, France -- As Mickey Mouse gets ready to mark his 75th birthday, his parent company's European operations has put a dampener on the celebrations.

France's Euro Disney reported a 56 million euro ($66 million) annual net loss Monday for the year ending September 2003, up from 33 million euros ($38 million) the year before.

The theme park operator's loss was smaller than financial analysts' forecasts of 59 million euros, according to Reuters.

But its operating profit fell to 132 million euros ($155 million) from 175 million euros ($206 million) a year ago.

The company, which is 39 percent owned by The Walt Disney Company and 17 percent by the Saudi billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed, opened a second theme park outside Paris in March last year -- to complement the original opened in 1992.

But the combined business has been hit by weak economic growth in Europe and a drop in tourism.

The second park failed to meet visitor expectations, with overall visitor numbers falling from 13.1 million a year ago to 12.4 million.

The parent company's iconic symbol Mickey Mouse celebrates his 75th birthday Tuesday.

The character made his debut in the film Steamboat Willie in 1928. The cartoon helped launch The Walt Disney Company, now a multi-billion dollar global media company.

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