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Six Flags Could Dust Itself Off in Dubai

Rick Aristotle Munarriz
March 5, 2008

Just when you thought that Dubai had brokered way too many deals to import stateside amusement park concepts into the United Arab Emirates, along comes Six Flags Dubailand.

Dubai Holding's Tatweer is forming a strategic alliance with Six Flags (NYSE: SIX  ) to bring the chain's signature brand of scream-machine thrills to the Arab world, with the first park set to break ground in Dubai next year.

The Dubailand project is starting to turn into a haven for theme-park lovers. Universal Studios and DreamWorks Animation (NYSE: DWA  ) have already inked deals for licensed parks in the Dubailand complex that will include theme parks, eco-tourism projects, shopping malls, restaurants, and residential units. Even Marvel (NYSE: MVL  ) has a licensed superhero park going up in Dubai.

Just last week, Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD  ) announced that it had licensed its four theme-park concepts -- Sea World, Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove, and the recently christened Aquatica waterpark -- as a stand-alone concept called Worlds of Discovery Dubai.

Six reasons to wave six flags
The Dubailand project promises to be breathtaking. It's not just the American properties that are getting an Arabian spin. The venture features things like an indoor snow dome and an enclosed park that features life-sized replicas of the seven wonders of the world.

Six Flags will have company in targeting the tourism bucks, but there are several reasons to get excited about this park.

Many of the parks will parallel their sister parks closer to home, but Six Flags Dubailand may prove to be even more ambitious. A debt-laden Six Flags won't have to appease its creditors in mapping out the Dubai project. It will simply collect royalties after it conceptualizes and oversees the attraction, leaving Tatweer to bankroll the actual construction. In other words, this will be the gray matter canvas that CEO Mark Shapiro and his associates always wanted. They're dreaming on someone else's dollar, so it won't be a matter of simply slapping a Tony Hawk theme on a spinning mouse coaster.

The strategic alliance with Tatweer will also seek to expand the concept beyond Dubai, including branded restaurants, hotels, and retail outlets. In short, the park in Dubai may be what the rest of the Six Flags chain aspires to become. It's more than just found money. It's an incubator that pays for itself.

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