Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable operator, announced Monday that it will acquire a 51 percent stake in USJ Co., the holding company of Japanese theme park Universal Studios Japan, as part of its bid to expand its overseas businesses. The move is said to be the company's biggest overseas investment.
Comcast’s NBCUniversal will pay $1.5 billion for the majority stake in USJ, the Philadelphia-based company said, in a statement Monday. USJ CEO Glenn Gumpel will step down, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc., MBK Partners Ltd. and Gumpel will retain their minority shares in USJ. The deal gives USJ an enterprise value of $6.2 billion.
The deal is expected to close in the first half of November, Comcast said, according to Reuters.
“We see Comcast and NBCUniversal becoming more of a global company,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told reporters in Osaka Monday, according to Bloomberg. “This is the beginning of us making more global investments.”
Comcast gained the Universal film and theme park franchises after it paid General Electric Co. $1.67 billion in 2013, which gave it full ownership of NBCUniversal, as well as the NBC broadcast network, and cable channels MSNBC and Bravo. USJ has been operating as an independent company under license from NBCUniversal.
USJ had planned a public offering on the Tokyo stock exchange sometime this year, but concerns have been raised over the timing, due to the upcoming IPO of the Japan Post group in November, sources told Reuters.
USJ opened its theme park in 2001, and listed on the startup exchange Mothers Market in 2007. The company had hoped to build Universal Studios Japan as a rival to the Tokyo Disneyland, but was forced to delist in 2009 after it struggled to stay afloat, and was sold to a consortium led by Goldman Sachs.
However, USJ has enjoyed renewed success ever since the opening of its "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" attraction last July, recording 11.8 million visitors in 2014, a 16.8 percent increase from the previous year, and a revenue boost of 44 percent.
USJ also plans to open another theme park in Okinawa.
Comcast's latest move comes after it dropped its massive $45.2 billion bid to buy rival Time Warner Cable Inc. in April, after facing stiff opposition from antitrust regulators.