Sale to split up Oz's Becker Group

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SYDNEY -- The assets of Australian production and distribution company Becker Group are being broken up under terms of a deal unveiled Friday.

The company's TV production and outside broadcasting businesses are being sold to regional TV broadcaster Prime Television, while Becker Group founders Richard and Russell Becker, through the privately held Becker Film Group, will retain control of the company's film, exhibition, production and distribution business.

Prime Television said it will take over the Becker Group for AUS40 cents (32 cents) a share, valuing the company at AUS$26.1 million ($21 million). Prime said it will acquire 100% of the shares in the Becker Group, with Becker Group's OnSite Broadcasting and TV production businesses to become part of the Prime TV group.

Prime TV CEO Warwick Syphers said the proposed acquisition is in line with his company's strategy of expansion through investing in complementary businesses.

"Becker Group's OSB and TV production businesses are a good strategic fit with our existing TV broadcasting business," Syphers said. "If our offer is successful, Prime TV expects to strengthen the customer relationships in the OSB and TV businesses and is committed to continue investing in the businesses to secure future growth."

The OnSite Broadcasting business is the most profitable division of the company, while Becker's production business focuses largely on factual and kids programming for such broadcasters as Discovery Networks International, National Geographic Channels International, TLC, Travel Channel, Animal Planet, PBS, Canal Plus, NHK, TV Asahi Japan, CCTV China and MediaCorp. Singapore.

Concurrently, the Becker Film Group will buy Becker Group's film-related interests, including Dendy Films, Dendy Cinemas, Becker Films International and Moonlight Cinema for AUS$15.5 million ($12.4 million).

Recent Becker Films productions have included "The World Fastest Indian," Gillian Armstrong's documentary feature "Unfolding Florence: The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst" and upcoming Daniel Radcliffe starrer "December Boys." Between them, Dendy Films and Becker Entertainment claim the highest market share of Australian independent film distributors.

Becker Group independent chairman Greg Gardiner recommended that shareholders accept the Prime offer, which is set at a premium of 21.6% over the six-month average price of Becker securities.

Becker Group reported a 96% drop in profits to AUS$31,000 ($24,800) on revenue of AUS$23.6 million ($18.8 million) in its half-yearly results last month. The company said the drop in profits was the result of poor performance on the film distribution side, a decline in ad revenues at Moonlight Cinemas and arbitration proceedings over international rights to the feature film "Marigold."

"The group's financial performance is expected to significantly improve in the June 2007 half," the company said last month.
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