HONG KONG – Australia’s number two cinema chain Hoyts took a step closer to a share market flotation this week with the appointment of investment bank UBS as advisors.

The company is currently owned by Pacific Equity Partners, a Sydney-based private equity firm which paid A$440 million (US$410 million at current exchange rates) in 2007.

The company indicated in April that it would pursue an IPO, rather than a trade sale. (China’s Dalian Wanda, which owns AMC Entertainment, had previously been mooted as a buyer.) Recent estimates of the implied valuation range between A$700 million and A$900 million (US$652 million – US$859 million).

Hoyts operates 43 multiplexes across Australia and New Zealand, with a total of over 400 screens. It also operates the Hoyts Kiosk video rental chain and the Val Morgan cinema advertising business.
Further financial advisors are expected to be hired in the next months, and an investor roadshow is reported to take in financial capitals in Asia, Europe and North America in November, ahead of a listing on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) in December.

Hoyts has undergone a series of recent restructuring moves in preparation for a change of ownership. These include the promotion in February of Damian Keogh from Val Morgan to Hoyts CEO, the shelving of plans to launch a wholly-owned online video operation, Hoyts Stream, and the departure of a number of senior executives.

Departures include: Frank Perikleous, director of programming; COO Matthew Liebmann; chief marketing and digital officer Crispin Tristram; and general manager – digital content Linda Hickey.