Disney buys stake in a Russian firm

MICKEY Mouse will have to take a crash course in Russian after Walt Disney announced it will expand its presence in the country.

The firm will launch a free Disney Channel that will reach about 40m households in one of the world’s fast-growing entertainment markets. The decision followed a meeting between chief executive Bob Iger and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It will was buy a 49 per cent stake in the Seven TV network from media company UTH Russia. The new, ad-supported Disney Channel will replace Seven TV with popular Disney shows such as “Phineas & Ferb” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” as well as original Russian programming.

Disney did not disclose financial terms, but it is understood to have paid in the region of $300m (£186m) for the stake.

Disney already operates a cable channel in Russia, but it reaches only about 6m households in a market where subscription-TV is still a luxury most decide not to pay for.

Earlier this year the entertainment giant started work on a £2.3bn amusement park in Shanghai, which is due to open in 2016. It is also expanding its Hong Kong resort.