OSAKA – U.S. media giant and cable operator Comcast Corp. confirmed Monday it will buy a 51 percent stake in USJ Co., operator of the Universal Studios Japan theme park in Osaka, for about $1.5 billion (¥180.42 billion).
It is Comcast’s biggest overseas investment, as the largest U.S. cable operator seeks international growth after being stymied in its bid to acquire its second-largest competitor Time Warner Cable Inc.
Under an agreement reached with USJ shareholder Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Comcast will purchase the shares via its unit NBCUniversal, which operates Universal Studios theme parks in Hollywood and Orlando, Florida.
“We see Comcast and NBCUniversal becoming more of a global company,” Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chief executive officer, told reporters in Osaka on Monday. “This is the beginning of us making more global investments,” he said, adding the USJ deal will be Comcast’s biggest investment outside the U.S.
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, including from digital media in the U.S.
USJ Chief Executive Officer Glenn Gumpel said at the Osaka news conference that the company will drop its plan to relist shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange for now. He also expressed his intention to resign at the end of November.
USJ has kept some distance from Universal Studios Hollywood, and some attractions have features that are unique to Japanese anime and games.
The planned acquisition will likely bring into focus how and whether it will have any impact on the ongoing talks between USJ and Okinawa to build a new theme park in the island prefecture, industry observers said.
Universal Studios Japan opened in 2001 to become a major tourist draw in the Kansai region. Although it had been suffering from a drop in visitors, the theme park drew a record 12.7 million visitors in fiscal 2014 after adding the popular Harry Potter zone.
USJ was delisted in 2009 from the bourse’s Mothers market for startups due to the lackluster performance of its shares. Goldman Sachs’ investment fund acquired USJ.