Goldman to offer ¥140bn for Japanese theme park

Goldman Sachs’ sixth buyout fund is poised to increase its stake in Universal Studios Japan. The tender offer it will launch Monday, if successful, would be one of the largest private equity deals agreed in Japan in more than a year.

Goldman Sachs Capital Partners will on Monday make a tender offer of ¥50,000 (€388; $531) per share, or approximately ¥140 billion, for the outstanding shares of Universal Studios Japan. Goldman already owns 41 percent of the theme park operator, having become its largest shareholder in 2006.

A Tokyo-based spokeswoman confirmed the investment would be made from Goldman’s sixth buyout fund, which closed on more than $20 billion in 2007. The firm is currently seeking approval from its limited partners to invest half the fund’s $9 billion of remaining dry powder in troubled companies and distressed debt plays. More specifically, it wants to allocate about $1.5 billion toward investing in companies Goldman already owns and $3 billion would go to fresh deals.

“We decided to invest further in USJ to help the management aim for the next stage of growth,” Goldman said in a statement. “This investment underscores our long-term commitment to and confidence in the Japanese market.”

MBK Partners and Owl Creek Investments will purchase respective stakes of approximately 25 percent and 15 percent from Goldman after the tender offer ends.

Universal Studios opened in Osaka in 2001, and while it finally became profitable in fiscal 2007, the leisure industry as a whole has been hard hit by the financial crisis. Hard Rock Park, a private equity- and private equity real estate-backed amusement park in South Carolina, began liquidating its assets in January. It had filed for bankruptcy because of low attendance levels driven by the collapse of the housing market, skyrocketing energy and gasoline prices and steadily increasing food costs, according to court documents.

Should the USJ deal complete, it would be the largest private equity transaction in Japan since  JC Flowers agreed in November 2007 to buy up to a 32 percent stake in Shinsei Bank for $1.8 billion.