Private equity group buys Oz's Hoyts

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SYDNEY -- Sydney-based private equity group Pacific Equity Partners has acquired Australian cinema operator and film distributor the Hoyts Group for AUS$440 million ($365 million), PEP said Monday.

PEP managing director Rickard Gardell said the company was "very excited to be acquiring the leading cinema exhibitor and advertiser in Australasia" from owners Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. and West Australian Newspapers.

"We look forward to partnering with an excellent management team and investing in future growth opportunities," he said.

Hoyts operates a 400-screen circuit in Australia and New Zealand, Val Morgan cinema advertising and Hoyts Distribution, which handled the local release this year of "Bratz," "Road Assassin" and "Saw 3." The company holds about 24% of the Australian exhibition market.

PBL and WAN said they will net about AUS$150 million ($130 million) each from the sale, which is expected to close in November. Approval from the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board and New Zealand's Overseas Investment Office is pending.

PBL and WAN each paid $129 million for Hoyts in 2005. In the fiscal year ending June 30, PBL reported an AUS$19 million ($16.5 million) profit from its 50% stake in Hoyts but wrote down the value of its investment to AUS$145 million ($125.7 million).

PBL then said it would exit its film businesses as part of a restructuring that has split the company in two, focusing on its media and gaming investments. PBL also is trying to sell its stake in U.S.-based producer New Regency.
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