U.K.-based production facilities company Pinewood Group, whose studios have housed blockbuster movies like “Spectre” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” has received a takeover bid from Venus Grafton worth £323 million ($423 million), Pinewood said Thursday. The Pinewood board intends to recommend the offer to shareholders.
Venus Grafton is a subsidiary of PW Real Estate Fund, which is managed by London-based asset management business Aermont Capital. The funds have a treasure chest totaling around 4 billion euros ($4.43 billion); investors include “prominent public and private pension plans and other institutions in Europe, the U.S., Asia and the Middle East,” according to a statement.
A spokesman for Aermont said that, if everything goes smoothly, the deal should be concluded at the end of August. Investment bank Rothschild is advising Pinewood on the deal.
In February, Rothschild was appointed to carry out a strategic review of Pinewood’s capital base and structure. The review’s purpose was to find ways to access further funds in order to realize what Pinewood saw as its “significant future growth potential.” Options included the sale of the company.
In 2013, Pinewood launched a plan for the £200 million ($263 million) expansion of Pinewood Studios, known as the Pinewood Studios Development Framework. This was designed to meet the growing demand for studio space in the U.K. created by the British tax credit, among other factors. It envisaged the creation of 100,000 square meters (266 acres) of additional facilities at the site, including 12 large stages with supporting workshops, production offices and infrastructure. This expansion was planned to come in three phases, and the first phase was completed last month. Additional funding from the new owners would allow Pinewood to complete the remaining phases.
In a statement Thursday, Ivan Dunleavy, Pinewood’s chief executive, said: “Pinewood has grown in recent years into a global operation which sits at the forefront of the U.K.’s creative industries. We believe that we have found the right partner for the business, and one that shares our long-term vision for the future of the group.
“Pinewood’s continuing commitment to the U.K.’s creative industries remains as strong as ever. Staff and customers can be assured that in this new strategic partnership our priority will be to not only maintain, but build on the world-class provision of services.”
Leon Bressler, Aermont’s managing partner, said in a statement: “Pinewood is an iconic brand at the heart of the global creative industries. The transformation of the business in recent years has been considerable, and it is clear that there are more ambitions to be realized. We are excited about the potential to support the business as an independent company.
“Aermont has a strong track record in operating companies with a real-estate component. We look forward to working with Pinewood’s management team to deliver their compelling strategy for future growth, both in the U.K. and internationally.”
Pinewood recently reported a 10.9% increase in revenue to £83.2 million ($109 million) for the year ending March 31, boosted by Hollywood blockbusters like Eon’s “Spectre” and Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Operating profit rose 136% to £13.6 million ($17.9 million).
Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios hosted seven of the top 25 grossing movies of last year, including the highest-grossing film, the latest “Star Wars” installment. Other major pics that were based at the group’s U.K. facilities during the year included Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Lucasfilm’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” New Regency’s “Assassin’s Creed,” Working Title/Universal’s “Bridget Jones’s Baby” and Universal’s “The Huntsman.”
Following the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union, and the consequent fall in the value of the pound, the group’s U.K. facilities are likely to become even busier.
Pinewood also has investments in several production facilities outside the U.K., including Atlanta, Toronto, Malaysia and Dominican Republic. Annual revenue for its international operations was £3.5 million ($4.6 million).