Besson bids to boost ambitions

IPO to raise $135 million

PARIS — Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp is bidding to raise up to Euros 100 million ($134.9 million) from the company’s upcoming IPO to fuel its international ambitions.

Bigger budget pics with greater star power are one of the objectives of the group, which is behind such movies as “Danny the Dog,” “The Transporter” franchise and “Arthur and the Invisibles,” execs said Wednesday.

EuropaCorp, which has been valued at around $400 million, is already one of France’s most prominent players internationally. According to a document filed with the AMF last Wednesday, foreign coin accounted for more than 40% of the company’s Euros 159 million ($214.6 million) revenues in the fiscal year ending March 31. Net profit stood at Euros 8 million ($10.8 million).

Flotation on Paris Euronext market is expected to happen before the middle of July, after which many businesses in France shut down for the summer vacation.

Besson, director of films including “Le Grand bleu” and “The Fifth Element,” controls EuropaCorp via his holding company Front Line, which holds a 73% stake. His business partner Pierre-Ange Le Pogam owns slightly under 16% and the Caisse d’Epargne bank around 5.5%, which it acquired in January this year.

EuropaCorp hasn’t specified how many shares it will issue and what stake in the company will be floated, but according to reports Besson will hold on to a controlling majority. Under stock market rules the company is not allowed to say how much money it is seeking to raise but Le Monde reported the sum to be up to Euros 100 million ($134.9 million).

According to the document filed with the AMF last week, EuropaCorp has been profitable every year since its creation in 1999, when Besson and Le Pogam, previously Gaumont’s head of worldwide sales and marketing, cut loose from the French major to create their own company.

Since that time EuropaCorp has churned out 45 films garnering a total 54 million admissions in France. The lucrative “Taxi” franchise alone accounts for more than 20 million ticket sales.

Company currently has eight movies in the pipeline, including Liam Neeson starrer “Taken,” a third “Transporter” and two “Arthur” sequels.

Latter pic, a huge hit in France and a big seller internationally, caused a public exchange of insults between Besson and Harvey Weinstein recently. After “Arthur” bombed Stateside, Besson said Weinstein was the worst distributor he’d ever dealt with. Weinstein retorted by calling Besson a “has-been.”

However Besson’s IPO and ambitious plans to create a studio on the outskirts of Paris, a project still in the cards but not to be financed by EuropaCorp, suggest the France’s own movie mogul is not about to disappear any time soon.

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