(Adds data on private equity acquisitions, updates market value)
By Wakako Sato and Emi Emoto
TOKYO, Jan 13 (Reuters) - USJ Co Ltd 2142.T, which operates a Universal Studios theme park in Japan, may go private in a buyout led by Goldman Sachs (GS.N), five people familiar with the matter said.
Goldman is looking for investors to join a bid for the Osaka-based company, the people said, asking not to be identified as the deal has not been completed.
Shares in USJ jumped 11.5 percent to 38,650 yen on Tuesday, rising by their limit after Reuters and its Basis Point loan service reported the move. The gain pushed up the company’s market value to 83.7 billion yen ($936 million).
USJ, which listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in March 2007, includes rides themed on Peter Pan’s Neverland and the movies “Back to the Future” and “Jurassic Park”.
Spokesman Johta Takahashi said USJ had not made any decision to go private.
Going private allows companies to restructure their operations under the guidance of like-minded shareholders and without the short-term pressures that come with being listed on the stock market.
But the deal could hinge on whether Goldman can successfully find co-investors at a time when private equity firms are struggling to raise funds amid the global credit crunch.
Global acquisitions by private equity firms fell 70 percent to $236 billion last year, Thomson Reuters data shows.
In October, USJ posted April-September net profit of 4.1 billion yen ($45.9 million), down 12 percent from a year earlier, while sales fell 8 percent to 34.3 billion yen. The park drew 3.9 million visitors during the half year, down 4.7 percent.
It is 41 percent owned by an investment arm of Goldman Sachs.
In October 2006, USJ received 54.4 billion yen in loans from the Development Bank of Japan, Goldman Sachs and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp to refinance existing debt.
Goldman Sachs has been an active investor in troubled Japanese companies with the aim of turning them around and selling at a profit.
Last month, it said it would sell its stake in struggling electronics firm Sanyo Electric Co 6764.T to rival Panasonic Corp (6752.T). [ID:nT295487] ($1=89.40 Yen) (Additional reporting by Stephen Aldred and Taro Fuse; Editing by Michael Watson & Ian Geoghegan)