Bac bakes backing with IPO

Labadie launches shares on Nouveau Marche to raise $29 mil for indie

PARIS — As part of a drive to create “France’s first independent major,” leading indie distributor Jean Labadie launched an IPO of his film group Bac Majestic Wednesday with the aim of raising $29 million.

The share offer will end on July 4, when the group involved in production, distribution and exhibition will be listed on France’s new technology Nouveau Marche at a share price between $10.83 and $12.25.

Some 85% of the public offering is earmarked for institutional investors and the rest for private investors.

Afterwards, Labadie will retain 59.7% of the company he founded 15 years ago. Another 20% is owned by Jean Martial Lefranc, head of the videogame company Cryo Interactive.

Labadie received a little help from some famous friends Wednesday as he presented his group to journalists and investors in Paris.

Short screened

Not content merely to give a classic presentation of Bac Majestic’s activities and perspectives, he screened a short film in which Miramax’s Rick Sands, Roman Polanski, John Turturro and the Coen brothers were among key industry figures singing his praises.

“This guy really loves movies and that’s what counts when you want to do this job,” said Polanski, while Ethan Coen commented that his films had “always done better with Jean and Bac than they have in other countries.”

Miramax, which recently renewed a three-year deal with the film distribution banner Bac Films, will be taking a 1.9% stake as a “gesture of friendship,” Labadie said.

Such bolstering was what skeptics needed after a perusal of the heavily indebted group’s finances. Its revenues grew 27% a year between 1997 and 1999, to reach around $58 million, and it is aiming for growth of 37% a year, to $144 million in 2002, but because of debt servicing, it expects to post a net profit of slightly less than $4 million.

While Labadie has a reputation as a big spender, however, few underestimate his ability to pick out winning films such as Roberto Benigni’s “Life is Beautiful,” “Pulp Fiction,” or “Scream 2” and “Scream 3” — including his bankers.

Labadie said he was “not a great believer” in the notion of a European major because Hollywood studios wanted to sell films territory-by-territory, benefiting from the upside in certain countries on an ad hoc basis.

While the distribution of films in France would continue to be the “petrol” that kept Bac running, he planned to develop the co-production side of the company’s activities and also press ahead with its multiplex ambitions.

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