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Rival French labs eye LTC financial rescue

Confirming the current crisis sweeping through the French facilities and services industry, veteran film laboratory LTC has declared the Gallic equivalent of Chapter 11.

The 50-year-old LTC, based in Paris, is one of the three major labs in France and talks are under way with rivals Eclair and the MGM-owned GTC on a deal to save it.

Uncollectable debts

“There is one laboratory too many in France,” said Jean Bernard Fetoux, the president of LTC parent VDM.

“The lab has been hit by the fact that a lot of French producers are taking their films to Britain to have prints made. In addition, LTC is owed about 180 million francs ($ 32 million) by production companies that have either gone out of business or simply can’t pay us.”

According to Fetoux, LTC will continue to work while a rescue package is sought. “We could either be talking about a merger with Eclair or GTC or a refinancing,” he said. “What is certain is that we couldn’t go on losing money at the present rate.”

Estimates are that LTC lost 18 million francs ($ 3.2 million) in 1992 and, in a reflection of the harsh times, revenues dwindled from 160 million francs ($ 28 million) in 1991 to 110 million francs ($ 19 million) last year.

‘We reached crisis point’

“The situation has got critical in the last three months,” Fetoux said. “What with work going to England and our inability to recover debts owed to us by production companies, we reached crisis point.”

Fetoux bought LTC in 1987 as part of an overall expansion by his VDM group. VDM’s core business remains video postproduction and pulling video prints. Top-name clients include Fox, Columbia TriStar and Paramount and 1992 revenues were around 240 million francs ($ 43 million).

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