In a move that would put the two domestic Universal Studios theme parks back on the same track and under unified ownership, Comcast owned NBCUniversal has opted to agree to the Blackstone Group’s offer to sell their half of the Universal Orlando Resort. This also solves some potential licensing issues if Blackstone decided to sell their half to someone other than NBCUniversal.
The price works out to be about $3.2 Billion, including some debt, or between 7 and 14 times yearly earnings. Blackstone will get about $1 billion for its share. Universal Orlando has had tremendous growth in the last 12 months since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened. And Blackstone essentially triples the investment they made 11 years ago. Comcast just spent $13 billion buying NBCUniversal, which might mean problems for Universal Studios theme parks if they run out of cash to spend on continued improvements in the theme parks.
The Orlando market, in particular, is very competitive and growing more so as Legoland Florida and, potentially, Orlando Thrill Park, come on line. Investing in an expanded Wizarding World of Harry Potter to start a pattern of return travel among its fans, is crucial. Finding something new and exciting to bring people to Universal Studios Orlando and Citywalk should also be on the radar.
I would have liked to see Blackstone combine its Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Parks, and LegoLand Florida properties into one mega group. Savings and marginal improvements from combined ticket sales, transportation, and hotel bookings, would have made this a great partnership.
Now Universal Studios will have to renew the long abandoned connections between the Hollywood location and Orlando. This should help with some savings in marketing and ordering supplies and merchandise for the two parks. The parks have shared development and other administrative departments.
What would you like to see from Universal Studios theme parks?
(via the Orlando Sentinel)