Blockbuster grabs 59 ChoicesU.K. outlets

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LONDON -- Blockbuster in the U.K. has snapped up 59 stores from No. 2 rental chain ChoicesU.K. through a deal with administrator PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Financial details were not disclosed, but sources suggested that the highest bid received for the stores was in the region of £600,000 ($1.21 million).

The stores will be rebranded as Blockbuster stores, and about 450 jobs will be saved as a result. The deal follows the recent sale by PwC of ChoicesU.K. Local, a franchising operation, and ChoicesU.K. Direct, a wholesaling company, to U.K. mail-order operator Findel.

AIM-listed ChoicesU.K. Plc., which has been battling a downturn in the rental sector caused by piracy and discount sell-through DVDs, called in administrators last month after it failed to secure a financial restructuring with its bank.

Blockbuster Europe managing director Martin Higgins said the acquisition was part of a plan by the 600-plus store U.K. arm of the U.S. rental giant to grow its retail business.

"We see tremendous opportunities with our business in the U.K., and this purchase fits very well with our overall strategy," he said. "Our goal is to be a complete source for home entertainment and, during the past several months, we've focused on a number of key initiatives, including expanding our retail selection of movies and games and improving our rental proposition."

Nick Cropper, joint administrator at PwC, said he will now focus on selling the rest of the portfolio, which includes about 80 stores.
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