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Comcast Corp. will acquire a 51 percent stake in Japanese theme park owner USJ Co. as the largest U.S. cable company seeks to expand its business overseas.
Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit will pay $1.5 billion for the stake in the owner of Universal Studios Japan in Osaka city, Comcast said in a statement Monday, adding USJ’s Chief Executive Officer Glenn Gumpel will step down while Goldman Sachs Group Inc., MBK Partners Ltd. and Gumpel will retain minority stakes.
Philadelphia-based Comcast, which in April dropped its bid to buy Time Warner Cable Inc. amid opposition from antitrust regulators, has been seeking growth elsewhere from digital media in the U.S. to expansion overseas. Its NBCUniversal unit, which owns Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort, has license and operating agreements with Universal Studios Japan, according to its website.
USJ, listed in 2007 but taken private by Goldman two years later as the park’s appeal faded and the number of visitors slumped, had earlier said it could seek a re-listing this year. Sales and visitor numbers at the 14-year-old Japanese theme park had hit a record high following a revamp with a new $400 million Harry Potter attraction opened last year.
Comcast Corp. in 2013 gained the Universal film and theme park businesses after it agreed to pay General Electric Co. $16.7 billion for full ownership of NBCUniversal, which also gave Comcast control of the NBC broadcast network, as well as cable channels MSNBC and Bravo.
NBCUniversal in August agreed to make a $200 million investment in the news website BuzzFeed and a similar amount in Vox Media, the online publisher of The Verge, Eater and Re/code, in an effort to capture the growth in digital advertising and reach younger consumers.
USJ had sales of 138.5 billion yen in the fiscal year ended March 2015, up 44 percent from a year earlier, while operating profit rose 61 percent to 39 billion yen, both all-time highs, spokesman Johta Takahashi said earlier Monday.
Its theme park, which opened in 2001 as a joint venture between Osaka city and a group of private companies, also received a record 12.7 million visitors in the fiscal year through March 2015, up from 10.5 million, according to Takahashi.
This article was written by Tesun Oh and Monami Yui from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.