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Weak krona and ABBA key to Swedish theme parks turnaround

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Weak krona and ABBA key to Swedish theme parks turnaround
16:04 CEST+02:00
The operator of three of Sweden's largest amusement parks lost money in 2008, but the company's CEO is confident of an upswing in profits for 2009 due in part to the weak Swedish currency.

Overall, the parks managed by Parks & Resorts Scandinavia (PRS), which include Gröna Lund in Stockholm, the Kolmården wildlife park in eastern Sweden, and Skara Sommarland in south central Sweden, had more than 2 million visitors in 2008, about as many as in 2007.

The company's total turnover for 2008 also rose five percent to 677 million kronor ($87 million).

But a number of costly legal disputes and a write down in real estate values dented PRS's final results for the year, leaving the company with a loss of 13 million kronor, compared with a profit of 30 million kronor in 2007.

“There were a number of extraordinary costs. Business in and of itself has been quite good. The adjusted results are positive,” said Jan Roy, who took over as CEO of PRS just a few weeks ago, to the TT news agency.

The company's legal woes stem from a dispute with a former tenant at the Gröna Lund amusement park and with a contractor who was involved in the expansion of the Vildmarkshotellet hotel at Kolmården.

Roy said it was merely a coincidence that the legal battles occurred at the same time, adding they weren't indicative of how PRS deals with its business partners.

Despite the weak economy, he thinks 2009 will be a strong year for the company. Figures for the year so far are encouraging, with a roughly 30 percent increase in the number of visitors to Skara Sommarland.

“Kolmården has also started quite well with double-digit growth. Gröna Lund is slightly over last year's numbers, which is very satisfying,” said Roy.

But July and August are critical months for PRS, and it won't be until after the summer that Roy knows for sure if 2009 will be a year to celebrate.

One contributing factor that bodes well for 2009 is Sweden's weakened currency, which attracts more foreign tourists while at the same time results in more Swedes choosing to vacation at home.

In the longer term, PRS is pinning its hopes to the iconic Swedish pop music group ABBA. The company is involved with plans to create a touring exhibition of ABBA artifacts and eventually an ABBA museum in Stockholm.

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