H.K. fund to pay ¥100 billion for Huis Ten Bosch park

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Huis Ten Bosch in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture on Aug. 8

Major travel agency H.I.S. Co. has announced its plan to sell its entire 66.7% stake in the Huis Ten Bosch Dutch-themed resort park in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, to Hong Kong investment fund PAG.

Another five companies also plan to sell their entire stakes to PAG, which will pay a total of about ¥100 billion for their shares and those of H.I.S.

As the business performance of H.I.S. has deteriorated due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the firm urgently needs to improve its financial situation.

Extraordinary income

H.I.S. plans to transfer its 66.7% stake in Huis Ten Bosch for ¥66.6 billion on Sept. 30, a 33-fold increase from the ¥2 billion H.I.S. paid when it acquired the stake in 2010. The firm expects to book an extraordinary income of ¥64.6 billion from the deal for its fiscal year ending in October.

The remaining 33.3% stake, held by five local firms including Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Railway Co. (JR Kyushu), will also be sold to PAG for a total of about ¥30 billion.

Huis Ten Bosch will continue to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of PAG.

“We look forward to further enhancing the level of customer satisfaction benefiting from PAG’s expertise as well as [its] marketing know-how,” Huis Ten Bosch Co. President Katsuhiko Sakaguchi commented in a press release announced by PAG on Tuesday.

PAG, with about ¥7 trillion in assets under management, has invested in Universal Studios Japan, a theme park in Osaka. The company plans to begin full-fledged formulation of investment plans and strategies to attract visitors, including the introduction of new attractions.

Huis Ten Bosch briefly plunged into deficit due to the pandemic, but its business performance has been on a recovery trend as it returned to the black for the first time in three years in the consolidated interim financial results for the first half period ending March 2022.

The theme park is a candidate site for an integrated resort facility that Nagasaki Prefecture is planning. The amusement park is expected to enhance its ability to attract visitors if the integrated resort plan is realized.

“We have great confidence in the park’s future potential, and we look forward to working closely with the entire HTB [Huis Ten Bosch] team to offer an unforgettable experience to visitors of all ages,” PAG said in the press release Tuesday.

H.I.S. financial situation

H.I.S. decided to sell Huis Ten Bosch as there is no prospect of recovery in its core business for the deteriorating financial situation caused by COVID-19.

Overseas travel, which used to account for the majority of sales, has plummeted due partly to restrictions on entry into Japan. The firm posted a final deficit of ¥50 billion in its consolidated financial results for the fiscal year ending October, 2021, the worst in its history, with sales declining to about one-seventh of their level two years ago.

Despite a spate of cost-cutting measures, including the closure of approximately 100 retail offices in Japan and overseas and the transfer of employees outside the company, H.I.S. posted a final loss of ¥26.9 billion for the first half of the fiscal year ending April 2022.

There was concern that the company could fall into insolvency, as its capital ratio — a measure of financial soundness — had dropped to 5.8% as of the end of April.

H.I.S. announced on Aug. 26 that it would become a small or medium-sized enterprise by reducing its capital to ¥100 million in a bid to reduce its tax burden.

The company had no choice but to let go of Huis Ten Bosch, a money-making business that at one time generated half of the HIS Group’s operating income.

“With extensive experience and expertise in managing theme parks, I am confident PAG will make a significant and enduring contribution to the future growth of HTB,” H.I.S. President Motoshi Yada said in the PAG press release.

Huis Ten Bosch opened in 1992, and went bankrupt in 2003 when it filed for protection under the Corporate Reorganization Law amid a slump in attendance and other problems.

An investment company affiliated with Nomura Holdings Inc. supported the company, but its performance did not improve. H.I.S. acquired Huis Ten Bosch in 2010.

H.I.S. founder Hideo Sawada himself became president of Huis Ten Bosch and worked to bolster the company, resulting in it returning to profitability in its first year of operation.