The logo of Evergrande Real Estate on a crane in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province
Long Wei/Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
The real estate giant Evergrande also owns 15 amusement park projects in China.
They’re dubbed „Fairyland” theme parks and were meant to „surpass” Disneyland.
Videos show one of its parks being completely empty, while Wall Street Journal reporters found another partially operating.
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Property behemoth Evergrande may be best known in China for building millions of apartments and being at least $300 billion in debt, but it seems its founder and chairman, Hui Ka Yan, may also have wanted to become the country’s next Walt Disney.
Within Hui’s real estate empire lies a lesser-known subsidiary – an assortment of amusement parks aimed at promoting Chinese culture by using next-gen tech.
Its pet project was christened „Fairyland,” the brand name for theme parks across China for kids aged 2 to 15. According to Evergrande’s annual reports, the parks promise mythical rides combined with high-tech indoor facilities and online entertainment.
Evergrande brimmed with confidence when it announced its plans in 2017. Fairyland was supposed to be a household name that „surpasses” Disneyland, offering 33 major attractions per location, reported state-run tabloid The Global Times.
Its parks operate year-round, boasted Evergrande, using their „all-indoor, all-weather, all-season” facilities. Evergrande was even set to open a „Water World” with 120 water rides, and said it would develop 20 to 30 such parks over the next few years.
Fairyland seems to be in limbo
It’s unclear exactly how many parks are currently open for business. Chinese TikToks from last month appear to show wide landscapes in Danzhou, Hainan filled with fantasy-themed buildings and roller coasters. The park seems to be completely empty, with construction materials littered across some parts of the park.
One park, worth $9 billion in the city of Lu’An, in the Western Anhui province, was partially operating when visited by reporters last month, per The Wall Street Journal. Several small-scale attractions and restaurants were open at the time, it reported.
The Journal’s Yoko Kubota and Liyan Qi calculated that Evergrande has spent $100 billion on investments for theme parks so far.
It’s hard to say if Evergrande’s theme park business has performed well, said Zhou Chuanyi, a credit analyst for Singapore-based firm Lucror Analytics, because it doesn’t offer a separate Fairyland profit report from its main real estate group.
Evergrande did say that its real estate arm, under which Fairyland sits, netted a loss of about $600 million in the first half of 2021.
Given Evergrande’s liquidity needs, it could sell off parts of its „asset-heavy” amusement park business, Zhou told Insider.
Zhiwu Chen, Director of the Asia Global Institute and an economics professor at Hong Kong University, told Insider that Evergrande’s expansion into non-property industries were partially to blame for its current debt crisis.
„Expanding to unrelated industries definitely added to the debt problem of the group company and impacted its overall resilience negatively,” he said, adding: „Evergrande followed a ‘size is king’ strategy so it is no surprise that it expanded to the extent it did.”
Paul Schulte, founder of Hong Kong-based analytics firm Schulte Research, told Insider Evergrande „had no business” looking into amusement parks.
„It was ill-conceived and seems like a whim of the top management,” he said. „These were glamor projects of the owner.”