Ben Ammar postpones Eclair plans

Mogul drops French post-production takeover

Media mogul Tarak Ben Ammar, who has attained effective control of film-processing activities in France, has postponed his plan to complete the buyout of the Eclair Group’s film laboratories, one of France’s largest and oldest post-production facilities, due to regulatory delays and other concerns.

Already an established film producer, distributor and TV network owner, the Franco-Tunisian Ben Ammar has been expanding his Paris-based Quinta Communications into more fully integrated audiovisual services, including processing and post-production facilities.

Ben Ammar had intended to merge the Eclair labs with Quinta’s post-production unit, LTC. Quinta acquired 43% of the operations in February 2007, upping that to 57% in December.

The majority ownership has effectively granted Quinta control of all of France’s major film-processing facilities as Quinta also owns audio post-production and digital effects specialists Duran Duboi.

This situation has raised concerns among unions, professional organizations and government regulators, who are worried about threats to the diversity of production in France.

In a statement Tuesday, Quinta cited the length of time being taken by the General Directorate for Fair Trading, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) in analyzing the proposed deal as a major reason behind Ben Ammar’s decision.

“Contrary to the view of the DGCCRF, the film-processing market is clearly European, as the high number of very important cross-border (deals) shows. The proposed merger would then not have created a monopoly situation,” Quinta said in the statement. “At most, it would have created a less marginal actor in the market.”

These “deadline constraints,” along with “changing market and economic decisions, have introduced too many uncertainties about the initial project,” Ben Ammar told the Agence France Presse on Tuesday.

France’s competition regulatory authority, the Conseil de la Concurrence, had been expected to rule on the matter in September or October, after receiving a file from the DGCCRF last week.

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