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Theme parks gain as Comcast grabs remainder of NBCUniversal


Feb 13, 2013 1:27 am

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It wasn’t a blockbuster year for theme parks, either for those owned by NBCUniversal or Disney. But, they held their own, largely based on increased attendance and higher per capita spending.

— Dennis Schaal

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The Transformers attraction at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California. flickr.com

Comcast got a tad Transformers-like as it decided to cast aside General Electric, its joint venture partner in NBCUniversal, agreeing to buy GE’s 49% stake for $16.7 billion.

A cable TV and media giant, Comcast takes 100% ownership of NBCUniversal, including its TV and movie interests, as well as Universal Parks and Resorts in Orlando and Hollywood.

As part of the deal, Comcast also bought from GE the properties it owns at 30 Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, and CNBC’s headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for $1.4 billion.

The theme parks exhibited modest growth in 2012, spurred on by a new Transformers attraction in Hollywood and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction in Orlando, Comcast stated.

For full-year 2012, theme park revenue rose 4.8% to $2.1 billion on a pro forma basis as operating cash flow increased 9.9% to $953 million.

During the fourth quarter of 2012, higher attendance and visitors spending more money per capita led to a 4.5% revenue boost to $520 million, Comcast reported.

Operating cash flow in the fourth quarter rose 9.7% to $245 million.

Earlier this month, Disney reported the results of its December quarter, notching a more robust revenue growth pace than NBCUniversal’s theme-park segment at 7% to $3.4 billion for Disney. Operating income increased 4% to $577 million.

Like Universal Parks and Resorts, Disney’s theme park business, too, made headway based on increased attendance and guest spending per capita.

Disney’s parks and resorts segment, which includes domestic and international theme parks, as well as Disney Cruise, is a much larger business than NBCUniversal’s theme park segment.

Comcast had owned 51% of NBCUniversal in the joint venture with GE, and had been slated to take 100% control in mid-July, but decided to accelerate the process to solidify its “position as a leading media and technology company,” Comcast stated.

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