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Comcast NBCUniversal to buy the rest of Universal Studios Japan for $2.3 billion

Comcast NBCUniversal to buy the rest of Universal Studios Japan for $2.3 billion
Shortly after the 2001 opening of Universal Studios Japan, guests experience a shark attack in one of the park's attractions. (Shizuo Kambayashi / Associated Press)

Comcast NBCUniversal announced plans Tuesday to spend $2.3 billion to buy the remaining shares of the Universal Studios theme park in Japan.

The move is another sign of confidence in the international theme park industry, coming weeks after Walt Disney Co. announced plans to buy out its partners in Euro Disney.

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Comcast NBCUniversal, the parent of Universal Studios Hollywood, said it has agreed to buy the remaining 49% ownership of the park in Osaka from such partners as Goldman Sachs and the park's former chief executive, Glenn Gumpel. The deal is expected to close by the end of April.

Attendance at Universal Studios Japan jumped nearly 18% in 2015 over the previous year, according to Aecom, a Los Angeles engineering firm that publishes an annual theme park attendance estimate.

That jump was one of the biggest rises in attendance at any of the major theme parks in the world last year. Aecom has yet to release an attendance estimate for 2016.

In 2014, the Japanese park opened its Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion. This year, it plans to open an expansion called Minion Park, based on the characters from the "Despicable Me" movies.

"This acquisition will bring an even stronger future for the theme park, its guests and its team members," Tom Williams, chairman and CEO for Universal Parks & Resorts, said in a statement.

Comcast NBCUniversal also plans to open another expansion based on the video game "Super Mario Bros." at the Japanese park in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Earlier this month, Disney announced plans to buy out all other shareholders in Euro Disney and invest $1.6 billion in the struggling park, located outside Paris.

The investment in France came months after Disney opened Shanghai Disneyland, a nearly 1,000-acre, $5.5-billion development in mainland China that Disney officials say has welcomed 7 million visitors and could surpass 10 million by summer.

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.

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