Universal Orlando remains cash cow for Comcast with earnings record

Universal Orlando was a driving force behind strong earnings in the last quarter for parent company Comcast, executives said Thursday.

Comcast does not report specific earnings by theme park, but its parks division reported its highest second-quarter adjusted earnings on record at $632 million from April through June.

Without disclosing figures, company leaders said in an earnings call that the Orlando property showed the highest adjusted earnings on record.

Executives did not give specific updates Thursday into the construction or development of Epic Universe, Universal Orlando’s third theme park, which is projected to open by summer 2025.

But Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said NBCUniversal is moving “full steam ahead” in building the park, repeating a phrase used by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell in January.

“I could not be more excited for how this park will bring new experiences to our visitors and additional runway for growth,” Roberts said.

NBCUniversal’s theme parks division generated $1.8 billion in revenue last quarter, an increase of over $700 million from 2021′s second quarter. Executives attributed the growth to spending at not only its U.S. parks but also Universal Japan, which lifted its COVID-related capacity restrictions just before the quarter started.

In 2022′s first quarter, Universal Orlando reported its best first-quarter earnings ever despite the slow return of international visitors. During the last quarters of 2021, the resort reported back-to-back record-breaking profits and its fourth quarter was the best “in the company’s history for any quarter,” Roberts said.

Despite signs of an economic recession, and the pandemic continuing to slow attendance and spending at Universal’s international theme parks, executives were optimistic about the future of the parks division’s performance.

“The parks business historically has been subject to macro trends, and there’s no reason to think that that won’t be the case in the future,” Shell said when asked about guest spending amid a looming recession. “But when we look at our business, we’re just not seeing it yet in our numbers or our performance.”

Attendance and guest spending at Universal’s U.S. theme parks continues to surpass 2019 levels so far this year, though international visitation is about half of what it was pre-pandemic, Shell said.

The COVID pandemic and related restrictions have hampered growth at the company’s theme parks in Asia. Universal Studios Beijing was closed for almost two months of the quarter but saw attendance recover afterward, even with capacity caps and testing requirements.

Attendance has been gaining momentum at Universal Japan in Osaka since full capacity returned in late March, said Michael Cavanagh, Comcast’s CFO.

“While COVID remains a risk we must manage, particularly in Asia, we remain bullish on the parks business both in the near and long term,” Cavanagh said.

Executives said in April that Comcast is spending about $1 billion in capital expenditures on Epic Universe year-over-year, a figure they repeated Thursday.

The theme park will be anchored by Super Nintendo World — the only land Universal has confirmed for the park — and contain other themed lands situated around a central hub, concept art showed.

Epic Universe has begun to take shape in recent months as crews working on the future theme park have made visible progress on the site between West Sand Lake Road and Universal Boulevard.

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