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Australia’s Village Roadshow Coronavirus Warning Sends Shares on Rollercoaster Ride

Current War
Courtesy of 101 Studios

Shares in Australia’s Village Roadshow Limited have swung violently in reaction to the company’s warning on the “significant adverse” effect of the coronavirus on its cinema and theme park businesses.

On Thursday, shares plunged by more than a third on the Australian Stock Exchange. On Friday, they climbed again by a quarter, to A$1.08, but not enough to recover all their losses. The current stock price also makes it unlikely that either of two tentative takeover bids for Village Roadshow will go ahead in their current form.

“Based on international precedent, it is possible that cinemas and / or theme parks may be closed in Australia for a period of time, which would have a serious adverse impact on VRL’s earnings during that time,” said Clark Kirby, CEO, in a corporate statement. He gave no indication of the financial scale of the impact. Cinemas belonging to other chains have already closed, or have cut seating capacity in order to create social distancing, and fewer film releases are being scheduled. Roadshow’s “The Current War” is the only film getting a wide release this week.

Australia has now all but sealed its borders to inbound travelers. And Kirby said that Village Roadshow’s theme parks had experienced reduced attendance, especially from international visitors. Forward bookings and sales of annual passes were also declining.

The company said that it is taking cost reduction measures and talking to government about “action plans and support.” All employees will be asked to take leave, executive salaries will be cut, and executive bonuses for this year eliminated.

“The cost reduction measures we are implementing will assist our group earnings and cash flows in challenging circumstances. Most of our earnings are derived from the (Australian) market, which should enable a swift recovery once this terrible pandemic has passed,” said Kirby.

The company said that it will continue to provide financial information to enable due diligence work by two finance companies, PEP and BGH. In December and January they respectively made indicative bids of A$3.90 and A$4 per share for the company.

Village Roadshow Limited owns 31% of the New York-based sales and production company FilmNation, a 24% stake in iPic, the North American cinema chain which went bankrupt in August, and 20% of Village Roadshow Entertainment Group (VREG), a U.S-based content development and production entity.