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Canal Plus closes in on Kinowelt

Koelmel to remain as shareholder

BERLIN — France’s Canal Plus is about to complete a deal for a majority stake in German producer-distrib Kinowelt, still one of Germany’s big names in film and rebounding with strong growth after a rough patch.

Sources close to the talks told Daily Variety that Kinowelt topper Michael Koelmel will keep a minority stake in the Leipzig-based company, which is one of Germany’s biggest DVD distributors and also produces and distributes TV and cinema films.

Koelmel, who is eager to stay active in the outfit, sees a brighter future for Kinowelt together with Canal Plus. The sale is seen as a strategic move to push Kinowelt’s operations beyond its core in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, while giving Canal Plus a foothold in German-speaking Europe. Koelmel was loath to expand abroad alone.

A spokesman for Kinowelt declined comment. The French entertainment group has also declined comment.

The acquisition would be in line with Canal Plus prexy-CEO Bertrand Meheut’s growth policy and enable Canal Plus to establish a base for its film production and sales operations outside France. Meheut had said earlier this year that there could be opportunities to buy or partner with TV operators in other countries. German media reports have said Canal Plus had also been looking at German paybox Premiere.

Kinowelt has handled Canal Plus homevideo titles in German-speaking territories since 2000.

Work on completing the deal worth about e90 million ($130 million) is moving forward.

Koelmel re-established Kinowelt in Leipzig after his previous company of the same name ran into liquidity problems in 2001 after expanding rapidly during the heyday of the Neuer Markt in Germany at the turn of the century.

Two years later Koelmel rebuilt Kinowelt as a closely held company in Leipzig. It’s once again one of the big players in Germany, with revenue rising in 2006 by more than 30% to $150 million and profits rising to $7.2 million from $5 million a year earlier.

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