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Oz’s Hoyts targets Latin market in screen buildup

SYDNEY — Australia’s Hoyts Cinemas unveiled plans Wednesday develop 300 screens in four Latino markets following its entry into Mexico and Chile.

Simultaneously, the international exhib announced it was raising about A$95 million ($71 million) via a one-for-six renounceable rights issue to fund expansion in Europe and Latin America.

Hoyts CEO Peter Ivany said the company’s Euro focus is on the U.K., Austria and Germany, and while he gave no details, he added he expects its first multiplex in the U.K. to open in the second half of next year.

Hoyts announced it will build cinemas in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in a partnership with Raghsa Construcciones SA, a major South American commercial and residential real estate developer. Separately, Hoyts has secured four sites comprising 42 screens in northern Argentina, which it regards as one of the most under-screened Latino countries. “Argentina (has) the potential for significant growth,” Ivany said.

Last year Hoyts bought a 35% stake in Cinemex, one of Mexico City’s fastest growing exhibs, which operates 115 screens and plans to build a further 285 in the next four years. Hoyts also has entered Chile and intends to open 20 screens in the capital Santiago by December.

Hoyts added 336 screens to its worldwide empire in the fiscal year ending June 30, including 62 screens in New Jersey and a further 65 screens in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The rights issue is fully underwritten by brokers SBC Warburg Australia. Two major shareholders, San Francisco investment bank Hellman & Friedman and Australia’s Lend Lease Corp. say they will sell their entitlements to domestic and international institutional investors. Ivany says he will sell about 50% of the rights to which he’s entitled in a similar placement.

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