Comcast buys majority stake in Universal Studios Japan for $1.5 billion

Mon Sep 28, 2015 12:01pm EDT
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By Emi Emoto

OSAKA (Reuters) - Comcast Corp said it will buy a majority stake in Universal Studios Japan for $1.5 billion, its biggest investment outside the United States and part of an aggressive expansion of its theme park business globally.

Propelled by the huge popularity of Harry Potter attractions, its Universal Studios parks have become a core growth business for Comcast, which saw its $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable Inc fail on antitrust concerns this year.

In addition to further investments undertaken at its U.S. parks, the No. 1 U.S. cable company is also planning a theme park in Beijing as well as an indoor theme park in Moscow.

"We will make more investments - not only Osaka but also other areas," Chief Executive Brian Roberts told a news conference.

Comcast, which owns Universal Studios and Universal Theme Parks through its NBCUniversal unit, said it will buy 51 percent of USJ Co, the holding company for the theme park operator, from Goldman Sachs, Seoul-based private equity firm MBK and other owners.

The deal gives USJ an enterprise value of $6.2 billion, Comcast said. Goldman Sachs, MBK and other current owners will retain an interest in the Japanese theme park operator.

Thanks to its "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" attraction, which opened in July last year, annual visitors jumped by a fifth to a record 12.7 million visitors in the last financial year.

Tokyo's Disney Resort, which includes Disneyland and DisneySea, also had a record year with 31.4 million visitors though its growth was just 0.3 percent.   Continued...

Comcast Corp. Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts (2nd L), Universal Studios Japan Chairman and CEO Glenn Gumpel (2nd R), and unidentified officials attend their joint news conference in Osaka, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 28, 2015.  REUTERS/Kyodo