Contender bought for $97.3 mil.

LONDON — North American DVD distrib Entertainment One has agreed to acquire the U.K.’s Contender Entertainment Group for £49.4 million ($97.3 million), as the first step in its planned international expansion.

Entertainment One was bought by U.K. hedge fund Marwyn earlier this year as the foundation for an international distribution business, and immediately refloated on London’s Alternative Investment Market.

Contender’s core business is DVD distribution, handling TV titles such as “Life on Mars” and “Spooks,” but it also has a theatrical arm, a library of 170 movies including Korean pics “The Grudge” and “Ong-Bak,” and an in-house kidvid production label, Rubber Duck Entertainment, which makes “Peppa Pig” and “Tractor Tom.”

Entertainment One has agreed to pay $82.8 million in cash plus shares worth $14.6 million for the company, which has annual revenues of $49.5 million and EBITDA of $12.3 million.

Contender topper Richard Bridgwood will remain in place under the new ownership.

Adding the U.K. to Entertainment One’s existing operations in Canada and the U.S. will give the group significantly more muscle in rights acquisition. The company is looking for further corporate deals to strengthen its market position in the U.K. and beyond.

Darren Throop, CEO of Entertainment One, said: “The acquisition of Contender is our first major acquisition in Europe. It adds to our existing US and Canadian operations and is a significant step in delivering our strategy of building a leading independent international entertainment content owner and distributor.”

Bridgwood commented, “This deal enables Contender to continue its strong growth as part of a larger multi-territory group while retaining the existing highly successful management and staff in place.”

Entertainment One has financed the purchase by issuing new shares to the value of $42.7 million. The deal is expected to close July 4.

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