Cineplex Not Eyeing Foreign Acquisitions, Focused on Canadian Market

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Despite recently acquiring four AMC Canada multiplexes, the Canadian cinema giant remains wary of paying too high a multiple and not securing acquisition synergies overseas.

TORONTO – Cineplex Entertainment may be spinning off cash from Hollywood blockbuster releases these days.

But don’t look for the Canadian exhibition giant to take a run at foreign circuits up for grabs as industry consolidation continues.

“It’s a matter of being opportunistic, and we have to be careful as to the multiples that some of the circuits are trading at, and some of the synergies we can be derive from putting our circuit together with others in other parts of the world,” Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob told analysts Thursday after unveiling his chain’s most profitable year-ever in 2012.

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After China's Wanda Group bought AMC and Carmike picked up Rave Reviews Cinemas, Guy Hands’ Terra Firma private equity fund has reportedly put the European cinema chain Odeon & UCI group back on the market.

Cineplex recently acquired four AMC multiplexes in Ontario and Quebec after Wanda's larger deal for the U.S. circuit. But Jacob said the Canadian chain will not pursue expanded market reach if it means no acquisition synergies from a foreign takeover.

“Unless, it’s synergistic and improves our shareholder value, we’re not rushing out,” he insisted.

His comments came Thursday as Cineplex showed the fruits of a record yearly attendance at its theaters.

The Toronto-based chain posted full-year 2012 earnings at $120.5 million, up 144.6% from 2011 profits, on total revenue up 9.4 percent to $1.1 billion.

Cineplex was buoyed by theater attendance reaching an all-time high of 71.2 million in 2012, up 7.8% from 2011 traffic.

Impressive box office came from 2012 releases like Marvel's The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, and The Hunger Games that pushed full-year 2012 ticket receipts up 10.6 percent to $638.3 million.

Concession revenue at Cineplex was up 13 percent to $329.3 million.

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Total revenues during the fourth quarter to December 31, 2012 was up 23.6 percent to $298.7 million, with Q4 earnings rising nearly 200 percent to $32.7 million, against a year-earlier profit of $11 million.

Cineplex added four new AMC Canada theaters during the latest quarter, and took advantage of premium pricing for 3D movies as it completed the rollout of digital projection technology and added 16 UltraAVX auditoriums during Q4, to bring its stable to 39 UltraAVX venues.

Given that domestic growth, Jacob insisted his chain wanted to focus on its own agenda building out its Canadian business, and not be "distracted" by rival chains up for grabs in the U.S. and Europe.

Cineplex operates 133 theaters and 1,437 screens countrywide.