NBCUniversal to Buy Majority Stake in Universal Studios Japan for $1.5 Billion

Universal Studios Japan 2 H 2014

News of the deal first surfaced earlier this month when a planned listing of the popular theme park on the Tokyo Stock Exchange was delayed.

Comcast's NBCUniversal said late Sunday that it has agreed to buy a controlling stake in the Universal Studios Japan (USJ) amusement park for $1.5 billion.

News that the entertainment giant was holding talks about a deal to acquire a majority stake in the Osaka-based company from the current holding company came to light on Sept. 15 when a planned listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange was delayed. Goldman Sachs, which led a buyout of the then troubled company in 2009, will continue to hold a minority stake.

The deal, which comes at a time when NBCUniversal's theme parks unit has been a key growth driver, puts an enterprise value of $6.2 billion on the Japanese theme park operator.

"We want to expand our theme park business around the world and this investment in Universal Studios Japan fits perfectly with that strategy. Our theme parks in the U.S. have performed exceptionally well and we look forward to working with our partners to achieve that success in Japan as we introduce significant attractions at USJ over the next five years," said NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke.

So far, the Japanese theme park has been owned and operated by USJ with a license from NBCUniversal.

The theme park opened in 2001 and was listed on the Tokyo exchange’s section for new companies in 2007, but was delisted again after it struggled with falling visitor numbers. The opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter last year has transformed the theme park’s fortunes and it attracted a record 12.7 million visitors in the year to March.

Universal Studios Japan has announced plans for a new theme park on the southern island of Okinawa.

Twitter: @GavinJBlair