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Korea’s CJ-CGV Buys Turkey’s Mars Cinema for $800 Million

South Korea’s CJ-CGV has sealed a deal to acquire Mars Entertainment, the largest movie chain in Turkey. The deal has a price tag of $687 million (Euros 605 million) which expands to $800 million with the inclusion of net debt.

CGV is leading a consortium of bidders, according to a regulatory filing. The Korean company said that it will directly hold a 38% stake, while its partners will hold the remainder.

Mars, which was founded in 2001 by Muzaffer Yildirim and taken over by the Actera Group in 2010, operates some 83 complexes with 736 screens under the Cinemaximum brand. They currently account for more than half of Turkey’s total box office.

The vendors are Actera, Esas Holding, Yildirim, and Menderes Utku. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close in May.

In a statement Actera said that the deal represents enterprise value of $800 million, implying that the deal also involves the transfer of some $120 million of debt. Since 2010, Mars achieved eight times revenue growth and eleven times EBITDA growth.

Since 2010 Mars has established cinema advertising company Mars Medi,” and film distribution company Mars Dagitim. The sale excludes a chain of gyms.

“We are very excited to begin our business in Turkey, which we have long viewed as a very attractive market with unlimited growth potential.  We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of the Turkish film industry and to the collaborative partnership between Korea and Turkey,” Seo Jung, CEO of CJ CGV said.

“Mars is a good example of the favorable growth dynamics of an emerging market being enhanced by initiatives such as an effective buy and build strategy, vertical integration and instilling of best practices. CJ CGV has acquired a great company,” said Murat Cavusoglu, co-founder and managing partner of Actera, in a prepared statement.

In February attention focused on China’s Wanda as a likely bidder. While sources close to Mars told Variety that the Chinese giant was among the suitors,  Wanda has since turned elsewhere. AMC Entertainment, the Wanda controlled cinema chain agreed to buy Carmike in early March, creating the largest movie theater circuit in North America.

CJ-CGV is the dominant cinema chain in Korea and has aggressively turned to other territories to continue its growth. It now has cinemas in China, Hong Kong, the U.S., Vietnam and Indonesia. Its positions in Vietnam and Indonesia were both achieved through acquisition of local operators, while in China it has ridden the booming market and built its own theaters, largely in mall locations. Before the Mars deal it operated over 2,000 screens.

Actera and Esas were advised by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and CJ CGV was advised by Citigroup.

Nick Vivarelli in Rome and Sonia Kil in Seoul contributed to this report.

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