News Column

Attendance, Cash Flow Up at Universal Theme Parks

Feb. 13, 2013

Jason Garcia, Orlando Sentinel

Attendance and visitor spending continued to climb at Universal Orlando and other NBCUniversal theme parks in 2012, parent company Comcast Corp. said Wednesday.

The Philadelphia-based cable company said operating cash flow at its theme parks -- a measure of financial strength -- surged 9.9 percent in 2012, from $867 million to $953 million.

That included a 9.7 percent increase in the fourth quarter, which covered the busy Christmas travel period, when cash flow jumped from $223 million to $245 million.

Total revenue rose 4.5 percent for the quarter to $498 million, and 4.8 percent for year to nearly $2.1 billion.

Comcast once again attributed much of the growth to Universal Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where a fan frenzy that began nearly three years ago shows no signs of ebbing. The company also said a new Transformers-themed ride at Universal Studios Hollywood drove gains at its West Coast park.

Comcast Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts praised the parks' "outstanding results" on a conference call with analysts to discuss the company's fourth-quarter earnings.

"The Universal theme parks have been a real standout, and we see great potential in the years ahead," Roberts said.

Comcast announced Tuesday that it will pay $16.7 billion to buy General Electric Co.'s remaining stake in NBCUniversal. Comcast acquired a majority stake in the media conglomerate in early 2011 and had always said it would buy GE out eventually, though it is doing so much sooner than expected.

Comcast said it will continue to ramp up construction of new attractions at its theme parks.

Total capital spending at NBCUniversal ballooned 80 percent in 2012 to $763 million, in part because of spending on attractions such as the Transformers ride in California and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem in Orlando.

And Comcast said NBCUniversal's capital spending will rise another 25 percent in 2013, almost solely because of parks spending. The company will open a copy of the Transformers ride in Orlando this summer and is working on a second Harry Potter land. It is also building copies of Wizarding World and Despicable Me in California.

"Investments in our theme parks over the last few years have actually reset the level of their performance," Comcast Chief Financial Officer Mike Angelakis said on the call. The new attractions, he added, are "dramatically expanding the potential of our theme-park business."



Source: (c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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