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Atlanta plans to develop Asia's largest theme park in Surat

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In what could give a major fillip to Gujarat's tourism industry, Mumbai-based Atlanta Ltd. an infrastructure development and real estate company, has received in principle approval from the state government to set up a USD 2 billion (Rs 10,412 crore) theme park in Surat.

With the first phase of the project set to begin in April 2012, the theme park has been cleared by the Gujarat Industrial Development Board and Gujarat Tourism Board and the state cabinet is expected to give a final go head in a few weeks. Atlanta, which is active in emerging sectors like road projects, is in talks with World’s biggest theme-park operator is likely to partner in the project.

"We are in talks with the likes of Wonderland in Canada, Sentossa of Singapore, Disney and Malaysia's Genting for strategic partnership. However, we will finalise on a partner once we get the necessary approvals. We may also allow private equity players to participate," said Rajhoo Bbarot, managing director, Atlanta Ltd.

The project will be spread across 3200 acres, all of which the company will buy from the Gujarat government at market price. The site identified at Suvali Beach, which has a 3.3 km stretch along the Arabian Sea coast, is located around 20 km from Surat will have five theme parks like nature park, amusement park, water park, beach park, ice skating and skiing dome, restaurants, hotels, studios, forest villas, beach villas, studio lagoon and apartments and villas among others. It will also provide air taxi helicopter services from major cities.

The initial investment in the theme park will be about USD 2 billion, which comprises of land development cost, building facilities, transport, technologies, design and planning. The project cost also includes interest during construction.

In fact, the entertainment city may be bigger than Disneyland in California, Paris and Tokyo and is expected to be fully operational in three to five years. The site is expected to attract 10 million tourists every year from India and abroad. Disney World in Florida attracts about 45 million tourists every year.

While the market research and financial model is being done by Ernst & Young (E&Y), the conceptual plan is done by Morphogenesis, apart from a foreign investment banking house also being mandated by the company.

“International Theme Park Consultants’ bet on India’s rising middle class to fuel growth, after the global financial crisis hurt spending in the US and Europe. The Asia-Pacific region is the fastest growing area by sales for Disneyland, the California based company. There were other options also in Sindhudurg, Maharashtra and near Mysore in Karnataka but Suvali was taken up due to its moderate climate and convenient transportation network, which requires moving a large number of tourists in and out. Moreover, there are no issues of displacement as the land is barren,” said Bbarot.

The world’s biggest theme-park operator - and China recently partnered to invest about $4.4 billion building a first theme park in mainland China in Shanghai after it opened Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005.

The entertainment company’s second amusement park - The Shanghai Disney Resort (around 4 square km with a room to expand) in the world’s most populous nation will open in about five years.

The project will be financed by a mix of equity and debt. The fund would be constituted by infusion from promoters and debt from financial institutions, advances and deposits received from franchises of hotels, commercials, residential, food plazas and revenues from villas and apartments.

Earlier, Atlanta, which has a pan India presence, also has to its credit the first Greenfield BOT project of Udaipur Bypass in 1996.

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