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UGC may buy United Communication

Control of French rights to the MGM/UA catalog may change hands.

French rights giant UGC DA confirmed Tuesday that it is in negotiations with a view to a possible takeover of fellow rights holder United Communication.

UGC DA general manager Alain Sussfeld told Daily Variety, “We are studying various possibilities,” adding that it is premature to talk of a done deal.

“Among other things, we are still not agreed on a price,” he said.

Anthony Stevens and Dominique Bigle, who founded United Communication in 1989 , were unavailable for comment.

If the deal does go through, it will make UGC DA one of the most powerful rights companies in Europe. United Communication’s assets include rights in most French-speaking territories for the MGM/UA and Columbia TriStar catalogs.

In 1991, Stevens and Bigle signed with 20th Century Fox and Fox Broadcasting to handle merchandising rights of Fox-generated product, including the “Simpsons.”

The agreement covered France and French-speaking territories with the exception of Canada. More recently, United Communication is reported to have acquired French merchandising rights to Steven Spielberg’s smash “Jurassic Park.”

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the United Communication catalog has a 450 million franc ($ 75 million) pricetag onit, but that the company is carrying substantial debts. Observers are suggesting that it is the company’s rocky financial situation that has driven it to seek a deal with UGC DA.

Sussfeld and his team already control a catalog of around 1,800 films and some 900 hours of TV programs. In June, Alain Sussfeld told a shareholders meeting that UGC DA is expected to make 30 million francs ($ 5 million) profit this year, almost identical to 1992 results.

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