SYDNEY, May 24 (Reuters) - Australian theme-park operator Ardent Leisure Group said on Wednesday it will consider redeveloping its Dreamworld park, seven months after a fatal accident turned into a reputational and financial disaster for the company.
Earnings and visitor numbers for Australia’s biggest theme park have fallen sharply since October 2016, when four people were killed in an accident on the Thunder River Rapids Ride.
Ardent has forecast a loss of between A$2 million and A$4 million ($1.5 million to $3 million) for the year ending June 30 for its theme parks division, compared with earnings of A$34.7 million a year ago.
On Wednesday it said it had hired a town planner to assess rezoning parts of the park, located near the Gold Coast tourist strip in northeastern Queensland state, and is in talks with developers over opportunities for alternate uses for the site.
Morningstar analyst Brian Han said in a research note that the prospect of selling some of the park’s land was a “tempting development opportunity, especially given surging Asian interest in the Australian property space”.
“The potential upside of the excess land could be significant if rezoned,” the note said, though he added by phone that no information was available about the size of the available land or the ease of rezoning it for development.
Shares in the company rose 1 percent to A$2.07 in early trade on Wednesday, still 18 percent below their value before the fatal accident. The broader S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 percent in early trade.
$1 = 1.3383 Australian dollars Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Stephen Coates