LOS ANGELES, May 30 (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday said it has no plans to build a theme park in Malaysia -- even though government officials in that country said they had been in talks to develop one.
"We are constantly exploring opportunities around the world as we look to grow our parks and resorts business. At this time, however, there are no existing discussions in Malaysia and we currently have no plans for a Disney-branded resort development in that country," said Lisa Haines, a spokeswoman for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
Malaysian government officials said they are in talks to set up a Disney theme park in southern Johor state, as it battles neighbor Singapore to become a major tourist hub.
Government officials have held talks with executives from Oriental Land Co. Ltd., the Japanese company that operates Tokyo Disneyland, to run a similar park in Malaysia, The Edge financial weekly reported over the weekend, citing sources.
But Disney said it has held no such talks.
"Oriental Land Company, which owns and operates Tokyo Disney Resort as our licensee, is a valued partner; however, they have no role in evaluating or negotiating other opportunities for Disney outside of Japan," Haines said.
Malaysian Economic Planning Minister Effendi Norwawi told reporters on Tuesday the country was exploring all options to make the southern corridor an attractive region.
"So it will include theme parks and other attractions, so we are hoping to get Disney; but we are discussing with several other parties to see which is the most realizable option," he said.
"Yes, we have been in discussions with Tokyo and also with Disney in the U.S," he added, without giving further details.
Japan's Oriental Land said it had done some research in Johor on a possible leisure business but said the project was not related to Disney.
"We are only a Disney licensee. We have no rights to set up a Disney park nor provide advice on its operations," said an Oriental Land spokesman.
The Japanese company late last year did research to see if a leisure business was possible on request from the Malaysian government, he said. No decision has been made following the research, he added.
The Japanese company has conducted such research in several countries in the past, he said.
Malaysia is eager to develop Johor state, separated by a thin strip of water from Singapore -- which is itself chasing the tourist dollar by developing a casino industry.
The theme park could occupy 2,000 acres in Nusajaya, part of a 23,000 acre township being developed by state-controlled UEM World Bhd, The Edge said.
Tokyo Disneyland is one of Asia's top tourist sites and, with the adjacent DisneySea, draws 25 million visitors a year.