China's Fundamental Films Buys 28 Percent Stake in EuropaCorp

Luc Besson -Comic-Con 2016- Getty - H 2016
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EuropaCorp will issue new shares for a $67 million investment from the Chinese company.

Luc Besson's EuropaCorp said Thursday that a subsidiary of China's Fundamental Films, a Shanghai-based film producer, distributor and financier, has agreed to acquire a stake of 27.9 percent for €60 million ($67 million).

The investment makes the company EuropaCorp’s second-largest shareholder.

The companies have an output deal first signed in 2012 and extended in 2015. They also have co-produced films, and Fundamental more recently acquired a big equity stake in Besson’s mega-production Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

In the deal, EuropaCorp will release 11.43 million new shares, for a 27.89 percent of total capital. The shares are set at $5.83. The deal is subject to usual regulatory requirements and a shareholder vote expected to be held before the end of 2016.

Through his holding company Front Line, Besson’s stake will be diluted from 43.8 percent to 31.6 percent.

EuropaCorp is expected to remain publicly traded. The company had talked of delisting as recently as a year ago under the direction of late former CEO Christophe Lambert.

"This capital increase will enhance EuropaCorp’s ability to produce and distribute English-language films and TV series around the world," said Besson in a statement. "We are delighted to further strengthen our close links with Fundamental Films and the booming Chinese market. After their significant investment in our film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, this agreement reflects their confidence in both our company and our global strategy."

Added Mark Gao, chairman of Fundamental Films: "We are delighted to become the second largest shareholder in EuropaCorp and strengthen our relationship with Luc Besson’s studio. We are extremely confident in their ability to achieve its strategic goals and enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with it in this new phase of its development.”

The deal was approved by both boards in a series of meetings on Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to be approved by shareholders before the end of the year.

EuropaCorp has produced a number of blockbuster hits, including the global juggernaut Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson, and the last of the Taken franchise, starring Liam Neeson, both in 2014. But with a limited slate last year, including the reboot Transporter: Refueled without original star Jason Statham, the company’s net loss for the 2015-2016 fiscal year ending March 31 was $31.1 million, down from a profit of $18 million the previous fiscal year. The annual turnover fell 35 percent to $187.7 million, dragging the stock price down.

The company is looking to Valerian, starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevigne, Clive Owen and Rihanna, to boost its fortunes.