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Ster-Kinekor cuts back

Troubled co. to sell 50% stake overseas

JOHANNESBURG — South African cinema chain Ster-Kinekor is cutting back after burning its fingers in a number of offshore ventures and seeing a 10% fall-off in local auds.

Locally, Ster-Kinekor is to close or franchise 90 screens, 25% of its capacity, in a move blamed on an attendance drop of 4 million people since 1997.

Offshore, the troubled group is to sell its 50% stake in Ster Century Europe, the chain it began three years ago in hopes of expanding the success of its multiplex concept back home.

William Kirsh, the boss of Ster-Kinekor parent company Primedia has also hinted that Ster Century Middle East may have to be sold. The two foreign ventures lost the group 16.5 million rand ($2 million) in the past six months and contributed to a 43% plunge in profits.

Kirsh acknowledged that his company’s entertainment strategy had failed. The sale of its offshore assets, Kirsh added, was expected to return the group to profitability, a view shared by media analysts.

The analysts believe Primedia paid too much for Ster-Kinekor when it acquired the chain in 1997.