New investors may give plexes a push

Europe wonders if China's interested in more circuits

Besides the consolidation of European circuits by Continental players, there’s also the possibility of new entrants joining the pickup game in Europe. Following Wanda’s $2.6 billion acquisition of U.S. circuit AMC, many Euro exhibitors are wondering if the Chinese also have their sights on the Europe. If so, their most obvious target might be Odeon UCI, given that Terra Firma has already held the chain for eight years and will need to cash its chips sooner or later.

Terra Firma turned down inquiries for the company last year that reportedly fell short of its own valuation target of better than $1.6 billion — more than 10 times earnings in a sector that typically trades at around six times that measure.

Rupert Gavin, CEO of Odeon UCI, denies rumors that Terra Firma must sell by 2014, the 10-year anniversary of its fund, but also adds that the ownership situation doesn’t impact daily management or strategy.

One of the parties kicking Odeon’s tires was reportedly the private equity firm BC Capital Partners, which also bid unsuccessfully for Vue in 2010. It was beaten by Doughty Hanson, which acquired a controlling stake in a deal valuing the circuit at more than $700 million, and providing Vue with its war chest for further acquisitions.