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Filmax signs $200 million debt pact

Refinancing deal worth up to $27 million a year

Bucking Spain’s film credit crunch, Julio Fernandez’s Barcelona-based Filmax Entertainment has clinched a seven-year refinancing agreement reportedly worth up to $200 million.

The deal includes long-term refinancing, new finance and credit facilities.

The refinancing was syndicated to 41 private and public sector financial institutions by savings bank Caja Madrid.

Filmax declined to comment on the value of the deal, which closed soon after the company grossed a boffo $13.4 million as the Spanish distributor of “Slumdog Millionaire.”

The news comes amid company restructuring.

Like other European companies, including StudioCanal, Pathe, Constantin and Medusa, Filmax will focus on production, as the returns on distribution for all but blockbuster U.S. movies rarely justify the prices.

Production and distribution investment will be downscaled to around $27 million a year, CEO Carlos Fernandez said.

The company has been hit less by recession than by a drastic downturn in the local market, ravaged by piracy and TV stations’ reluctance to buy movies.

Also, Filmax will drive into international and domestic movie co-production. It will ramp up TV production and convert some of its 46 Spanish cinema screens to digital 3-D, Fernandez added.

Filmax’s debt refinancing was underwritten by minority shareholders, such as Catalonia’s public-sector Catalan Finance Institute and Spinaker.

“Catalan and Spanish public institutions want a strong film company like Filmax to go on functioning,” said Xavier Parache, film-audiovisual finance director at the Catalan Institute of Cultural Industries. “But the refinancing was put through on financial, not political grounds.”

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