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Gaumont Sells Cinema Chain Stake to Pathé for $400 Million

Deal allows Gaumont to increase TV and movie production, including in the U.S.

PARIS – Signaling its intent to concentrate on production, French mini-major Gaumont will sell its 34% stake in Les Cinémas Gaumont Pathé, one of Europe’s biggest cinema theater chains, to fellow shareholder Pathé in a deal worth €380 million ($400 million).

Gaumont’s exit from Les Cinemas Gaumont Pathé ends a 16-year partnership with Pathé on the theater circuit. The chain is France’s biggest, and also operates in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium, comprising 108 theaters and 1,076 screens.

Gaumont’s divestment will allow it “to accelerate the promising development of its TV production activities in the U.S. and Europe, to reinforce its theatrical film production and to plan the expansion of Gaumont’s activities in Europe,” said Gaumont CEO Sidonie Dumas.

Jérome Seydoux, Pathé president, added: “This acquisition is a clear sign of Pathé’s will to develop and modernize cinema theaters.”

“The cinema theater is essential for theatrical films and theatrical films for cinema theaters,” Seydoux added.

The Gaumont-Pathe deal underscores the differences in strategic orientation between the two companies. One of the world’s oldest film production companies, which dominated global production in the first decade of last century, Pathé produces sometimes highly notable films, Pathé produces sometimes highly notable films, backing or co-producing as well as distributing and selling upscale mainstream international titles, such as Oscar winner “Slumdog Millionaire,” as well as art film and comedy co-productions in France, such as on Dany Boon’s current smash hit “Raid, Special Unit,” which is the No. 1 release in France of any nationality this year, earning over $25 million and counting.  That said, Jérome Seydoux has insisted in the past that Pathé’s main profit center is not production – though Pathé produces sometimes highly notable films – but exhibition and one of Pathé’s largest achievements under Seydoux has been the creation and modernization of one of Europe’s largest theater chains.

Headed by Jerome Seydoux’s brother, Nicolas Seydoux, Gaumont has driven hard into TV production, setting up Gaumont Television in not only Paris but Los Angeles and London and producing “Narcos,” one of the mainstays of Netflix’s recent global subscriber base. Gaumont has now launched a U.S. film production division. It also aims to grow its European TV series production business.

Pathé already owns 66% of Les Cinémas Gaumont Pathé. It will now become the sole owner. In immediate terms, Gaumont aims to use a maximum €125 million ($131.8 million) from the $400 million deal to offer to buy back minority shareholder stakes in the company. Gaumont is currently 65% owned by Nicolas Seydoux via his holding Cinépar.

Minority shareholders are U.S. investment group First Eagle IM (10%) and France’s Bolloré Group (10%) and Marcel Dessault (5%).

The remaining 10% of Gaumont stock is held via a free float on the stock exchange. Overseen by Sorgem, a Paris-based brand equity research company, the share buy back, if put through in its entirety, would leave Nicolas Seydoux with 100% of Gaumont.

The $400 million disposal would also clear Gaumont’s €205 million ($216.1 million) in company debt, leaving it in a net cash positive position of around €50 million ($52.7 million) with “all the required resources to implement its strategy, in particular the development of its production activities,” the company said in a statement on March 1. In the same statement, it announced full-year 2016 results of €188.7 million ($198.9 million) in revenue, down 13.0% on 2015,  and a €23.2 million ($24.45 million) operating profit, up 8.4% on the year before.

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