Posted on: July 22, 2022, 07:11h. 

Last updated on: July 22, 2022, 02:34h.

When Nagasaki began exploring possible locations for an integrated resort (IR), it didn’t take long before it settled on the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo City. However, the owners of the park that conjures up visions of being deep in the heart of Holland, not halfway around the world in Japan, might be looking to sell the property.

Huis Ten Bosch
Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki, Japan at night. Its owner hopes to sell the property, which is next to the location of a planned integrated resort. (Image: Getty Images)

Japan-based travel agency H.I.S. is reportedly shopping around for a buyer for the park, according to Kyodo News. The still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has produced travel restrictions that have weakened the company’s financial health. As a result, selling the property may be a significant way to gain strength.

Nagasaki, alongside casino operator Casinos Austria, envisions the IR rising on a 76-acre plot just to the west of the theme park. The prefecture is one of only two – Osaka being the other – that presented proposals to host the casino properties in April.

Cauterizing the Financial Bleeding

The ongoing pandemic, which recently caused Macau to suffer a major setback, led H.I.S. to incur losses of 29.6 billion yen ($194 million) between November 2021 and April 2022. As a result, it finds itself in a desperate situation to prevent further drops, and selling Huis Ten Bosch may be the best alternative.

The travel agency holds two-thirds of the shares in the company behind the theme park. It hopes to receive “tens of billions of yen” in exchange for its stake. While it didn’t offer a more precise figure, JPY20 billion is equivalent to US$145.26 million.

We are considering various plans, such as the transfer of shares to improve Huis Ten Bosch’s corporate and stock value. But no specific decision has been made at this time,” said H.I.S. in a statement.

The company didn’t specify if it had any serious offers. But the prospects of operating a theme park next to the new IR should receive a lot of interest. There is reportedly at least one candidate, an investment firm out of Hong Kong.

In addition to H.I.S., minority shareholders such as Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Railway Co. will sell their stakes as well. If Huis Ten Bosch does change hands, H.I.S. asserts that it will continue to operate as a theme park under the new ownership.

The loss H.I.S. reported for the recent six-month period was its largest ever. As a result, in addition to selling the theme park, it is cutting off other ancillary operations that have been underperforming. This includes its sale of HTB Energy Co., a power-retailing subsidiary.

Huis Ten Bosch Remains Strong

Investors know to buy low and sell high, which is where Huis Ten Bosch is currently. Despite the losses H.I.S. is trying to overcome, the company behind the theme park is strong. From October 2021 to March 2022, it recorded an operating profit of JPY300 million (US$2.18 million). During the same six months a year earlier, it saw a loss of JPY200 million (US$1.45 million).

Huis Ten Bosch opened 30 years ago and spans 375 acres. In 1996, four years after it opened, it reached annual traffic of 3.8 million visitors. However, seven years later, it filed for bankruptcy following a sudden and unexpected drop-off.

H.I.S. purchased the property in 2010. After years of rebuilding its place as the largest theme park in Japan, it found its groove. Unfortunately, that was just before the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing back the struggles the park experienced for years.

Japan is still in mourning following the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. However, the country’s plans to introduce IRs continue. The government could approve Nagasaki’s and Osaka’s plans – or one or the other – sometime this fall.