Kinepolis going public

AMSTERDAM — Belgium’s biggest plex-building group Kinepolis is making plans to launch on the Brussels stock exchange as early as November.

Kinepolis currently is the brand name of Belgium’s two biggest hardtop builders, the Bert Group and the Claeys Group. The two families have been slapping together the country’s biggest multiplexes, either separately or together in joint ventures under the Kinepolis brand, for more than a decade.

Bert and Claeys have applied for permission from the Belgian government’s anti-competition authorities to legally merge their combined assets in preparation for going public. While both companies are remaining mum on the matter until permission is granted, a company statement acknowledged the purpose of the launch was to raise capital to finance ambitious new plans for plexes inside and outside of Belgium and to export sales of Kinepolis know-how to the world.

Tied by marriage, the two Flemish families began working together in the early 1970s but put Belgian exhibition on the map in 1988 when they built what was at that time the world’s biggest cinema, the 24-screen, 7,400-seat Kinepolis on the outskirts of Brussels.

Bert and Claeys now control 104 of the territory’s 434 screens. Just the Kinepolis Brussels and new star performer the 24-screen Metropolis in Antwerp together took more than 25% of the total admissions in Belgium in 1996.

Currently on the drawing boards are plans for nine new hardtops to be completed before 2000 in Belgium, Holland, Spain and Martinique, as well as cooperative ventures in India and Australia. The two groups will go public under the name the Kinepolis Group. A 24% stake in several of the jointly owned plexes held by finance group GIMV still has to be negotiated when and if the Bert-Claeys merger is approved.

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