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Paramount Draws Interest from Skydance, Fox

Skydance Media and 21st Century Fox are interested in Paramount Pictures, but aren’t willing to be passive investors.

That could be a major obstacle to Paramount parent Viacom Inc., which is not looking for a synergistic partner but rather investors to provide an infusion of cash. Both Skydance and Fox would be looking to have a controlling voice in Paramount’s operations, and would each prefer to acquire the Hollywood studio outright, according to individuals brief on the situation.

Although Fox has signaled its interest, first reported by the New York Post, Viacom has not entered into any discussions with the company.

Viacom’s interest in attracting a passive investor to buy a minority stake of 20%-40%, is supposedly drawing interest from more than three dozen parties, including DMG Entertainment.

Skydance, backed by producer David Ellison, has had a long-term pact with Paramount, having backed many of the studio’s films including “True Grit,” last summer’s “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and the upcoming “Star Trek Beyond.” Earlier this week, the company announced it had raised $700 million in new financing.

There are also some concerns related to Paramount’s valuation. People with knowledge of the discussions speculate that the studio will be valued at between $4 billion to $5 billion and  the minority position would be valued at between $1.6 billion to $2 billion. Some of the interested investors believe that the studio’s EBITDA, which has declined in recent years as it has made fewer films, does not justify that price.

In February, Viacom chairman Philippe Dauman said proceeds from the sale of a Paramount stake would be used to pay down debt and grow the studio. At an investor conference earlier this month, he predicted that a deal would be done by the end of the next financial quarter.

Media analysts have speculated that deep-pocketed Chinese investors such as Alibaba or Tencent might be interested in buying a position in Paramount. DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg also publicly mused that while he isn’t interested in buying a minority stake in Paramount Pictures, he would be attracted to the idea of bringing on a financial partner and merging the two studios.

Viacom declined to comment.


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