Goldman bids for Universal Japan

Investment bank aims for Osaka theme park

TOKYO  — Goldman Sachs, along with partners, has offered to buy out USJ Co., which operates Universal Studios Japan, for ¥140 billion ($1.2 billion).

Goldman Sachs already owns 40% of Osaka-based USJ through Crane Holdings, a fund that is a wholly owned indirect subsid of Goldman Sachs. The fund will buy up USJ stock between March 23 and May 21, offering $5,087 per share. The USJ board has indicated that it is receptive to the buyout.

The cost of the buyout will be about $645 million. The Osaka mayor has indicated that the city is willing to sell its 9% stake in USJ to Goldman Sachs.

USJ prexy-CEO Glenn Gumpel will continue in his current position after the buyout.

USJ went public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Mothers market for startup companies in March 2007, but the stock price has been hit by declining attendance at the USJ park: Admissions dipped 5% in the nine-month period from April to December. In the same period, operating profit fell 11.6% to $79.8 million. 

By going private, USJ can restructure without being accountable to ordinary shareholders, who have seen the value  of their USJ shares fall to $414 Wednesday after reaching a high of $924 in May 2007. The stock hit a low of $289 in December.

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