Vue lines up support for tilt at struggling competitor Cineworld

Vue International, the largest privately held cinema chain in Europe, has secured financial support from its new investors to help put together a takeover bid against struggling rival Cineworld.

According to industry gossip, funds under the management of Barings and Farallon Capital Management have agreed to lend money to Vue in order to assist with strategic acquisitions.

Ciity sources say Vue would be one of the bidders for Cineworld, supported by the two funds, with the bid being tabled before a deadline expires later this week.

In the US, Cineworld has applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is currently holding a formal auction of its assets. Like Vue, Cineworld is listed in London and is one of the largest movie theatre companies in Britain.

The business said in a previous statement that it will  “run a marketing process in pursuit of a value maximizing transaction for the Group’s assets, focused on proposals for the Group as a whole”.

It added: “Cineworld has not initiated and does not intend to initiate a separate marketing process for the sale of any of its assets on an individual basis.”

Since the beginning of the year, Cineworld’s shares have plummeted by 90%, and the group as a whole now has a market value of less than £60m, reflecting the reality that investors risk losing money on any sale.

On Monday, it was unclear who the other potential buyers for Cineworld were.

Vue was severely impacted by the epidemic, just like the rest of the sector, and had to undergo its own financial reorganisation, which was just recently finished.

The company’s balance sheet is now strong following a £470 million debt-for-equity swap, and founder Tim Richards has stated openly that he intends to take advantage of possibilities to consolidate the industry.

On Monday, a Vue representative stated: “At Vue, our priority is on managing the robust rebound we are witnessing in our business. Therefore, it would be premature to speculate on any acquisitions at this time, although we are constantly looking at other opportunities.”

Vue is rumoured to be most interested in acquiring Cineworld properties in a select few nations, so it may need to find purchasers for the ones it does not want.

The recent success of blockbusters like the Avatar sequel and the release of two of the top three most grossing movies in UK history, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Daniel Craig’s final James Bond outing in No Time To Die, have helped the movie business.

The Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) and Omers, two Canadian pension fund shareholders in Vue, lost ownership in the debt-for-equity swap last year.

They oversaw a series of acquisitions that helped the firm become one of Europe’s leading theatre operators after acquiring control of Vue in 2013 in a deal valued at close to £1 billion.

They started to investigate a sale in 2019 — a record year for Vue — but were unable to finalise a deal before the COVID-19 crisis knocked the leisure sector to its knees.

The business, which employs more than 8,000 people, also now has access to an additional £75 million in cash as a result of its recent financial reorganisation.

The post-pandemic period, according to Mr. Richards, who also serves as chair of the British Film Institute, will mark “the second golden age of cinema” as people return to their favourite entertainment venues.

Vue operates approximately 2,000 screens in nine European regions, including Germany, Italy, and Poland, from just 230 sites roughly.

During the epidemic, the corporation was compelled to lay off thousands of workers in the UK, closing its locations for months.

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