Studio moving on to phase 2

MGM had received several bids as Friday’s deadline arrived for initial offers for the troubled studio.

The company, in a two-sentence statement issued Friday afternoon, didn’t disclose the identity of any bidders, nor did it disclose a timeline. The Lion, saddled with a crushing $3.7 billion debt load, put itself up for sale on Nov. 13.

“MGM is in the process of receiving indications of interest from potential bidders,” the statement said. “Once the company has completed reviewing the initial bids, it will begin the second phase of its strategic review process.”

Time Warner, India’s Reliance Entertainment, Lionsgate, AT&T, Liberty Media, Summit Entertainment and News Corp. are among the most likely bidders. More than a dozen companies have signed nondisclosure agreements allowing them to review MGM’s internal financials — including News Corp., which had held back due to concerns about the terms until working out a revised pact Friday, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Expectations are that a sale isn’t imminent since initial bids will probably come in well under the unofficial target range of $2 billion-$2.5 billion. But the offers will aid MGM management and its investment banker, Moelis & Co., in ascertaining whether to proceed with a second round of bids as well as whether MGM should attempt to restructure its debt.

The first round of bids are nonbinding. MGM’s assets include the 4,000-title library, the right to make new James Bond and Pink Panther movies, the Lion logo, the United Artists operations and half ownership of the two “Hobbit” movies.

The 140 MGM debtholders have agreed to forgive debt payments through Jan. 31, and it’s expected they’ll grant another “forbearance” extension to allow the process to play out further. MGM’s also facing the repayment of its $250 million revolving credit line in early April.

The Lion was taken private in 2005 by a consortium led by Sony, Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group and Comcast, with the group paying $2.85 billion and assuming $2 billion in debt as part of the purchase.

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