Rank to ankle pic distrib’n

LONDON — Rank Group Plc plans to sell its movie distribution unit and is expected to raise between $160 million and $180 million from the sale, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

The paper said the unit had been identified as a “non-core”‘ operation by chief executive Andrew Teare, who is refocusing the leisure company on its higher margin businesses.

A spokesman for Rank said the company had no comment on what it described as “speculation.”

Rank Film Distributors last year announced plans to increase production and acquisition through deals with Granada Film and Orion Pictures. Orion parent Metromedia Entertainment Group also owns the Samuel Goldwyn Co., which acquired Rank’s library of 400 films in 1994. Rank retained remake rights to those pics.

In addition to Rank Film Distributors, the company owns the Odeon theater circuit, Pinewood Studios, Deluxe motion picture film laboratories and video duplicating facilities.

The company also has a 50% stake in Universal Studios Florida and related ventures, as well as the Hard Rock Cafe empire.

In a trading statement last month, Rank said it had sold peripheral businesses worth over $320 million in the second half of 1996. Teare said the company was making “good trading and strategic progress.”

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