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StudioCanal buys Kinowelt

Restructuring of Euro biggies

2007/12/22


Canal Plus subsidiary takes 100%
By ERIK KIRSCHBAUM
BERLIN — StudioCanal has bought German producer-distrib Kinowelt, giving the Canal Plus subsidiary an important foothold in Germany and raising its profile as a major European player.

The companies announced on Thursday the long-rumored deal had been signed on Wednesday. StudioCanal, which was expected to take a majority share in the Leipzig-based firms, said it will instead take 100 %.

Kinowelt execs Michael Koelmel and his brother Rainer Koelmel will remain at the company, which is one of Germany's biggest DVD distributors and also produces and distributes TV and cinema films.

Deal is still subject to anti-trust agency approval. No terms were released but earlier reports estimated its value at about E90 million ($130 million).

"Germany plays a pivotal role in StudioCanal's strategy," said StudioCanal chairman Olivier Courson. "We've been working together with Michael and Rainer Koelmel for many years. Their expertise and experience in the German and international film industries are important foundations for our further growth. We're delighted that they will be staying on."

The acquisition is in line with Canal Plus prexy-CEO Bertrand Meheut's growth policy and enables Canal Plus to establish another base for its film production and sales operations outside France. Meheut had said last year that there could be opportunities to buy or partner with TV operators in other countries. German media reports have said Canal Plus had also been looking at German paybox Premiere.

Courson said in a statement the acquisition represents an important step in expanding StudioCanal's European distribution network, which already includes France, Britain and the Benelux countries. StudioCanal said that, aside from the Hollywood majors, it was now the only European film company with a reach to 230 million in Western Europe's largest markets.

StudioCanal, a 100% subsidiary of Canal Plus, is a market leader in the production and distribution of films in France and one of Western Europe’s top film companies. It acquired Optimum Releasing in Britain in 2006.

"As a result (of the sale) StudioCanal will become even more interesting for directors and producers from around the world for production and distribution," Kinowelt said in a statement.

Company also has operations in Austria and German-speaking Switzerland.

"The co-operation with StudioCanal, a well-known and financially strong international company, will give us the chance to expand our business further and become a part of the strongest European film company," the Koelmel brothers said in a joint statement. "We could hardly have imagined a better partner."

Kinowelt has handled Canal Plus homevideo titles in German-speaking territories since 2000.

Koelmel re-established Kinowelt in Leipzig after his previous company of the same name ran into liquidity problems in 2001 after expanding rapidly during the heyday of the Neuer Markt in Germany.

Two years later Koelmel rebuilt Kinowelt as a closely held company in Leipzig. It's now once again one of the big players in Germany, with revenue rising in 2006 by more than 30% to $150 million and profits rising to $7.2 million from $5 million a year earlier.






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