Curtain Poised To Rise On £700m Vue Sale
Britain's third-biggest cinema operator is gearing up for a blockbuster sale that could value it at more than £700m.
I understand that Vue Entertainment, which is controlled by the buyout firm Doughty Hanson, is expected to be put on the auction block later this year.
Doughty is close to appointing an investment bank to handle a sale after screening potential advisers in recent weeks.
Vue is run by Tim Richards, its founder, who pocketed a huge windfall when he sold to Doughty at the end of 2010. Mr Richards and senior colleagues now hold a minority stake in Vue.
Although Doughty has only owned the business for two-and-a-quarter years, a solid pipeline of blockbusters and a number of bolt-on acquisitions have helped Vue's profits grow substantially during that period.
The chain has been buoyed by decent box office takings from films such as Skyfall and the latest instalment of the Twilight Saga.
Analysts said they expected Vue to be worth north of £700m based on its earnings, although as a privately-owned company, there is limited public information about its financial performance.
Such a valuation would compare with the £450m at which Vue was valued when Doughty acquired it in December 2010.
Doughty is understood to have been prompted to prepare for a sale by a number of unsolicited approaches for the business, including from parties in Asia.
The private equity firm, which last year suffered the tragic death of its co-founder, Nigel Doughty, is also attempting to sell another of the companies it owns. HellermannTyton, an industrial group, announced a stock market listing several weeks ago.
Insiders cautioned that a Vue sale process this year was not yet certain but said that it was likelier than an attempt to float the company on the stock market. Doughty declined to comment.
Vue, which is ranked third in the UK cinema market by sales behind Odeon/UCI and Cineworld, has harboured ambitions of acquiring one of its larger rivals.
Late last year it bought Apollo Cinemas, a smaller UK competitor, for an undisclosed sum, a deal which gave the combined group 85 multiplexes with nearly 800 screens in Britain alone.
In total, Vue's operations in Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Portugal and Taiwan mean it now operates more than 1100 screens at almost 120 cinemas.
Odeon's owner, Terra Firma, has been tipped to launch a sale process this year but shows little sign yet of ending its near-decade-long ownership.