Foreign fund in talks to buy Huis Ten Bosch theme park

On July 21, the Nikkei Shimbun newspaper reported that Travel giant H.I.S. is in talks to sell its Huis Ten Bosch (HTB) theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki, to a Hong Kong-based fund. The same day that the news broke, H.I.S. issued a press release stating that this information was not announced by the travel company and that there was no official decision on selling their shares in the park.

H.I.S. owns 66.7% of the shares in the 152-hectare park, with the remainder owned by local companies, including JR Kyushu. It was also reported that these shareholders may also sell to the investor. The sale amount could end up in the tens of billions of Yen. After the proposed sale, H.I.S. is expected to continue operating the park.

The Dutch-themed amusement park opened in 1992 at a cost of 228.9 billion Yen. In 1996 annual visitor numbers peaked at 3.8 million, but by 2001 they had dropped to 2.93 million. The debt from the initial investment had not been reduced over this time. In 2003, the park went bankrupt but continued to operate with financial support.

After operating at a loss for the first 19 years of its operations, in 2010 H.I.S. stepped in to acquire the park with the goal of revitalizing it. At the time, annual park visitors had dropped below 1 million. In the following year, a third of the park was opened up as a free entry zone and the Huis Ten Bosch marina was donated to Nagasaki Prefecture. Visitor numbers recovered to 3.1 million by 2015 but dropped below this level for the following four years. In late 2018, H.I.S. had plans to sell an almost 25% stake to Fosun International in an effort to attract more visitors from China but those talks fell over three months later. In 2021, the park had 1.27 million visitors. As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the park recorded operating losses in 2020 and 2021. 

On July 22, the Sankei News reported that H.I.S. is in negotiations to sell to APAC-focused alternative investment firm PAG. In 2013, PAG invested US$250 million in Universal Studios Japan, selling its remaining stake in 2017. On July 24, the Nishihippon Shimbun newspaper suggested that the price could exceed 80 billion Yen (approx. US$587 million) and that the sale could take place in August.

The 31-hectare western side of the park has been earmarked as a potential integrated resort area but not with HTB as the operator. Instead, the plan, if the site was selected as a potential IR area, will be acquired by the future casino operator via Sasebo City. 

In 2019, Sasebo City recorded a provisional registration over the land on this side of the HTB site for 20.5 billion Yen. This gives the city the ability to sell the land to a casino operator. By late 2021, the planned operator appeared to be Casinos Austria International Japan. On July 21, 2022, the Nagasaki Shimbun reported that insiders do not expect the sale of the park to affect the IR plans.

Sources:
The Nikkei Shimbun, July 21, 2022.
H.I.S. News Release, July 21, 2022.
The Mainichi Shimbun, July 21, 2022.
The Nagasaki Shimbun, July 22, 2022.
The Sankei Shimbun, July 22, 2022.
The Nishinippon Shimbun, July 24, 2022.

 649 total views,  6 views today