Merlin Entertainment has announced an agreement to build a Legoland theme park in Japan.
The plans represent an attempt to capitalise on Japan's status as the second biggest theme-park market in the world, worth around £4bn annually.
The park will cost £185m, and will be built using Merlin's operated and leased framework, where the infrastructure of the park will be funded by a third party.
Merlin will directly invest £53m during the next three years and then lease the balance of the assets from Kirkbi Invest. Kirkbi has a 30 per cent shareholding in Merlin and a 75 per cent stake in Lego.
Located in Nagoya, central Japan, the park is two hours from Tokyo and one from Osaka, giving it an estimated catchment of 20m people. It is expected to open in the second quarter of 2017. The Nagoya city council has agreed to support the park by providing the necessary local transport and a 5,000-space car park.
Merlin executive officer Nick Varney said:
The park will make a significant contribution to the growth of the Merlin group from opening in the second quarter of 2017, as well as supporting our continued geographic diversification. Long term, we continue to believe that there is significant opportunity for the Legoland brand, with the potential for up to 20 parks across the world and we remain committed to our target of opening a new park every two to three years.
Merlin already operates six Legoland parks, including in Windsor, Florida and Malaysia. A seventh is expected to be opened in Dubai in 2016.