EuropaCorp back in the black

Besson's company beats analysts', and its own, expectations

After two years of losses, Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp hit breakeven for the financial year ended March 31, posting a €100,000 ($124,600) net profit.

Already announced, 2011-12 revenues dropped 5.7% year-on-year to $209.7 million.

EuropaCorp lost $37.6 million in 2010-11.

Results outperformed analysts’ expectations and EuropaCorp itself, which issued a profit warning with its Nov. 30 half-year results predicting full-year losses after Fox pushed its U.S. release of Liam Neeson-starrer “Taken 2” back to Oct. 5 this year.

Since then, however, EuropaCorp’s bottom-line has been goosed by bullish last-quarter international sales revenues, driven by deliveries of “Lock Out,” and better-than-expected TV and video sales in France for movies.

Full-year international sales sky-rocketed 112% to $92.2 million.

A buy-out of rights to season one of “Transporter the Series” by its production company, Atlantique Prods., brought in unspecified revenues.

Film production investment dropped to around $62.3 million in 2011-12 from $124.6 million 2010-11, said Jean-Baptiste Sergeant at Gilbert Dupont, a Paris stockbroker.

The big question remains whether EuropaCorp can now rack up sizeable profit margins in a still tough international market and after an indifferent year in France for some of its big movies, such as “Colombiana” and “The Lady.”

A €27 million ($33.6 million) minimum guarantee from Fox for “Taken 2” will hit EuropaCorp books first or second quarter of the new financial year.

At Cannes, EuropaCorp and Ryan Kavanagh’s Relativity Media struck a co-production and co-financing deal, including U.S. distribution, on Besson’s comedic gangster thriller “Malavita,” with Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, and the Besson co-penned “Three Days To Kill.”

In another back-to-basics move, EuropaCorp announced at Cannes it would abandon animation production.

“I’m quite confident about this next year, because the movie line-up is solid and TV production will be significant,” said Sergeant, citing not only “Malavita,” but Gerard Depardieu starrer “The Man Who Laughs,” “Mobius,” with Jean Dujardin, and the second season of “XIII” and TF1-commissioned “No Limit.”

EuropaCorp’s immediate future still raises questions, some of which may be answered by CEO Christophe Lambert at a Friday press conference in Paris.

EuropaCorp and Besson’s own holding company Frontline have guaranteed $17.5 million in two years from renting out office space at its soon-to-open Cite du Cinema film studios. It’s unclear how much exposure that still entails.

Lambert has also announced plans to build multiplexes across France. Hard tops ease cash flow, but construction guzzles cash.