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Goldman Sachs puts Alliance Films on the market

Canadian distrib also runs Momentum, Aurum

As Wall Street begins to cautiously re-enter Hollywood, Goldman Sachs is cashing out.

The company is putting up for sale its two-thirds stake in Alliance Films, the Canadian finance and distribution operation which backed “Insidious,” “The King’s Speech” and “Shame.”

Investissement Quebec, the Quebec government’s investment division which owns the remaining share, is selling its portion as well, according to an individual with knowledge of the transaction. Bank of Montreal is handling the sale.

Sale of the company, which was first reported by the Financial Times, would include Canadian and other rights to a library of more than 11,000 films, as well as Canadian distribution rights for pics from Relativity, Lionsgate Entertainment, Focus Features, the Weinstein Company and CBS Films. Sale would also include rights to release Relativity’s pics in the U.K. through Momentum.

IQ is shifting its investment focus away from film, according to sources with knowledge of the company, and is turning its eye toward natural resource projects as well as the creation of advanced materials and new technologies.

Goldman’s reasons for selling were not immediately clear, but observers close to the company said its decision did not come as a surprise.

While the financial crisis of 2008 saw a mass stock market exodus from the entertainment biz, some banks and institutional investors have slowly started re-entering the entertainment space, or decided to enter for the first time. And some of those relative newcomers – like SunTrust and OneWest Bank — have been instrumental in some of the largest film company refinancings over the past 12 months.

SunTrust was one of the principal banks involved in Legendary’s $700 million credit facility; both banks participated in New Regency’s $500 million credit line. Both transactions closed last year.

Other companies are finding a renewed source of leverage from their film libraries. Miramax, for example, was able to raise about $500 million from institutional investors, in large part due to its projected future digital licensing agreements from its older titles.

Reports of Alliance’s sale come just six months after the company acquired Maple Pictures from Lionsgate for about $40 million.

Alliance Films is one of two major Canadian distribs — the other being Toronto-based eOne — with operations in the U.K. though Momentum and in Spain through Aurum. Company first came under partial government ownership in 2008, when the Societe Generale de Financement bought a 38.5% stake for $102 million, giving the investment arm a 51% of the voting shares. Goldman Sachs took a stake in Alliance Films in 2007. Alliance Films was formerly Motion Picture Distribution, an income trust controlled by Alliance Atlantis Communications. EdgeStone and Goldman Sachs took over the company after the rest of Alliance Atlantis was bought by CanWest Global that year.

Alliance Films declined to comment. Goldman Sachs and IQ did not return requests for comment.

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