Caunck distribbery budget exceeds $122 mil

MONTREAL — Cinar Corp. unveiled its most ambitious production slate ever at its annual meeting Wednesday, with more than 360 half-hours for 20 different series on the sked for the coming year. The total production budget commitment exceeds C$185 million ($122 million).

At the meeting, the Montreal-based kids TV producer and distrib also announced robust first-quarter results and a number of senior executive appointments.

Many of the series on the production schedule are returning productions, notably PBS hit “Arthur,” “The Adventures of Paddington Bear” and “The Wombles.”New product includes “X-Ducks,” 13 half-hour episodes of extreme-sports-themed animation to be co-produced with Alphanim in France; “Poe Lite,” humorous adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe stories, also with Alphanim; action-adventure series “Flight Squad,” in co-production with Antefilms and Neorones; and the fantasy series “Baskervilles,” to be co-produced with Alphanim and U.K.-based Carlton.

Primetime mini

In addition, Cinar is developing a primetime miniseries with Bernard Zukerman Prods., the real-life tale “Marilyn Bell” about the first woman to swim across Lake Ontario. Cinar and Zukerman previously partnered on the made-for-CBS mini “Million Dollar Babies” and the prairie drama “Revenge of the Land,” which will air next season on CBS in the U.S. and CBC in Canada.

Cinar announced strong growth in both revenue and net earnings for its first quarter. Revenue for the quarter ended Feb. 28 increased 27.8% to $24 million, up from $19 million in the same period last year. Cinar Education accounted for 26.9% of the total revenues, compared with 20.2% in the first quarter the previous year.

Net earnings for the first quarter increased 22.6% to $3 million or $0.09 per share, compared with $2.4 million or $0.07 per share last year. Shortly after the end of the quarter, Cinar issued 7.55 million limited voting shares priced at $20 per share and the company raised approximately $143.6 million from the share issue.

With the latest share issue, Cinar now has cash reserves of $227 million, and co-CEO Micheline Charest said the Canadian company is looking for acquisitions in both the entertainment and educational areas.

Web presence

“We’re looking at expanding our presence on the Internet,” Charest said. “Clearly this company has a lot of growth potential in both divisions. There’s a lot of opportunities out there.”

A new corporate structure was also announced at the meeting, with Cinar being split into two divisions, Cinar Entertainment and Cinar Education. The latter houses the company’s recent education-biz acquisitions, including pre-school material supplier HighReach Learning, supplemental education products distrib Carson-Dellosa Publishing, and multimedia educational company Edusoft.

Hasanain Panju, Cinar’s chief financial officer and president of Cinar Education, has been promoted to the newly created position of senior executive vice president. Jeff Gerstein, formerly veepee of finance, is upped to chief financial officer. Steve Carson is appointed president of Cinar Education and he will report directly to Panju.

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