DUBAI, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Dubai's Al Ahli Holding Group has signed an agreement to build a Fox-branded theme park and resort in the emirate that will open by mid-2020, Ahli's chief executive said on Tuesday.
The complex will rival the $2.9 billion Dubai Parks and Resorts slated to launch operations next year, with both attractions important to Dubai realising its aim of increasing its pull as a family tourism destination.
The emirate wants to attract 20 million visitors annually by 2020. Last year, there were 13.2 million.
"We need to offer a slightly wider bouquet of tourism products for visitors than we currently have," Mohamed Khammas, chief executive of family-owned Al Ahli Holding Group told Reuters.
The international licensing partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products, a division of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, will see Ahli build a 4-million square foot park based on various Fox-owned creations including Rio, Predator and The Simpsons.
"You have everything from Ice Age to Planet of the Apes and Aliens, which are 18-plus, so we have a very wide range of intellectual properties," said Khammas.
He said the development will be part-funded through project financing from a consortium of banks that will be announced later this month along with the overall development cost.
Main construction will be completed in 2018, Khammas said, predicting the park would open before Dubai hosts the Expo 2020 exhibition.
California's Rethink Leisure and Entertainment will design and operate the complex, which will also include at least 200 hotel rooms.
The agreement with Fox, which also allows Ahli to build three similar parks globally - most likely in Latin America, the Indian subcontinent and East Asia - is its latest foray into leisure and entertainment.
In September, Ahli acquired Los Angeles-based social media publisher The Audience and last year bought Singapore's Comicave Studios, which manufacturers merchandise for the likes of Marvel, Warner Brothers and Disney.
The Audience says it syndicates content to more than 1 billion consumers every month and its clients include Ford and McDonalds.
"I wanted a direct channel to the consumer in order for me to plan further investments, either for myself or become a good resource for others to utilise," said Khammas.
Mining, industry and construction account for about a quarter of the group's revenue, Khammas added, while Ahli's other interests include real estate, retail and distribution, media, and food and beverages. (Editing by William Hardy)