Southern Cross snaps up exhibs

Private equity firm Southern Cross and Morgan Stanley have bought MMCinemas, Mexico’s second biggest exhibitor in terms of screens, and smaller chain Multimax.

The firms bought MMCinemas, which operates mostly in northern Mexico, from GrupoMultimedios, a Monterrey, Mexico-based firm that owns TV and media interests. It purchased Multimax, a six-theater loop, from Entretiene.

The merged chains will have 79 theaters with more than 700 screens in 47 cities.

The equity capital rush is expected to fuel MM Cinemas’ plans to build 10 complexes with 100 screens in the next year.

Southern Cross is a buyout firm backed by U.S. investors that operates in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Barclays Capital is financing the buyout, but the price has not been made public.

The buyout marks a long-expected run to consolidate Mexico’s exhib market.

Cinepolis, the biggest exhib in Latin America, which is privately owned by the Ramirez family, has expanded aggressively in the last decade, since Cinemex’s entrance into the market set off a multiplex-building spree. Mexico City-based Cinemex is now the No. 2 chain in terms of revenue.

The buyout leaves No. 4 chain Cinemark and several small regional chains up for possible acquisition.

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