Comcast puts down $1.5B for controlling stake in Universal Studios Japan

With attendance and cash flow bubbling over for its theme parks business, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has announced that it is paying $1.5 billion for a controlling interest in Universal Studios Japan. 

With the investment, Comcast will own 51 percent of the company, with the incumbent owners, which include Goldman Sachs and hedge fund Owl Creek Assett Management, retaining a minority stake. 

The deal values the park at $6.2 billion.

"We want to expand our theme park business around the world and this investment in Universal Studios Japan fits perfectly with that strategy," Steve Burke, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, said in a statement.

As Comcast reaps the financial benefits of its 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal -- ratings, ad sales and box office receipts are up across TV programming and movie studio divisions -- theme parks have been a surprise boon for the conglomerate. 

For example, after Comcast invested billions of dollars in new rides, renovations and upgrades into Universal's parks in Orlando, Fla., and Southern California, attendance increased 10.4 percent in 2014 to 40.2 million. And for the first half of 2015, operating cash flow from theme parks was $617 million, a 49 percent year-over-year increase.

Last year, Comcast subsidiary Universal Parks & Resorts announced plans for a new theme park in Beijing.

"We had this ambition really since the beginning of our purchase of NBCUniversal," said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said during a news conference in Osaka, Japan, an event covered by the Wall Street Journal. "We see Comcast and NBCUniversal becoming a more global company."

For more:
- read this Comcast press release
- read this Wall Street Journal story (sub. req.)
- read this New York Times story

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