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Babelsberg to feed growth with IPO

Persuading investors could prove a difficult task for studio

BERLIN — Studio Babelsberg is set to launch an initial public offering within the next six months.

Investor Carl Woebcken, who together with partner Christoph Fisser bought the legendary studio last year from Vivendi Universal for the symbolic price of e1($1.28), said the move would prepare the studio for the future, adding that a capital increase would likely follow the floatation.

Despite its golden-age glamour — the studio produced some of Germany’s most memorable films, including Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and Josef von Sternberg’s “The Blue Angel” starring Marlene Dietrich — persuading investors could prove a difficult task for the studio.

Babelsberg has failed to turn a profit since its privatization in 1992, when it was taken over by Viv U’s forerunner Compagnie Generale Des Eaux.

Service provider for U.S. studios

The studio nevertheless has over the years provided solid, state-of-the-art facilities for a slew of major Hollywood and international productions, including Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist,” “Aeon Flux,” “Beyond the Sea” and “The Bourne Supremacy.” “Mission: Impossible 3” is set to shoot there next summer.

Since taking over Babelsberg last summer, Woebcken and Fisser have continued to position the facility as a service provider for U.S. studios shooting in Europe.

The studio, which last year saw losses of $2.5 million and revenue of about $50 million, is expecting sales in 2005 to reach some $57.5 million.

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