Saudi’s Rotana to bring Walt Disney to Middle East

Saudi-owned Arab entertainment company Rotana Audio Visual Co. will distribute Walt Disney products across the Middle East and North Africa, the company said on Monday.

Rotana, which is wholly owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, signed a three-year deal to sell video cassettes and DVDs produced by Walt Disney Studios, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures in the region, the company said in a statement on Monday.

Rotana did not reveal the value of the deal, which could also include other Buena Vista Home Entertainment products.

"The deal complements (al-Waleed's) international business interests, including The Walt Disney Company and a stake in Euro Disney, France," Rotana President Salem al-Hindi said in the statement.

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The first releases will hit the market before the end of the year, the statement said.

Rotana, which will likely sell shares in an initial public offering in 2007, is expanding its operations in movies, radio and music, pushing aggressively into the entertainment market, which caters to nearly 300 million Arabs in the region as well as those living abroad.

Last year, the company signed an agreement with British firm Virgin for the online sale of music by Rotana's artists in France.

Rotana Home Entertainment, a new company based in Dubai, will be in charge of distributing the Disney films, Hindi said.

Rotana plans to list on one of the three United Arab Emirates stock exchanges rather than in conservative Saudi Arabia, where cinemas are not allowed.

Kingdom Hotel Investments, controlled by Alwaleed, is listed on the Dubai International Financial Exchange.


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