French distributor Bac Majestic is once again the subject of bankruptcy and buyout rumours swirling around the French capital.
An article in French daily Le Figaro on Tuesday claimed that the company is on its last legs following a serious drop in revenues (ScreenDaily.com Nov 18) and a delisting from the Paris stock exchange last week.
Bac has been down this road before. At the end of 2002 the company's debt stood at about $30m following an unsuccessful move into exhibition, the loss of an output deal with Miramax and difficulties with partner StudioCanal which resulted in the offloading of boutique label Mars Films.
Bac chairman and founder Jean Labadie has sold off some of his loss-making movie theatres. Significant investment in the company by Belgian-Russian entrepreneur Michel Litwak was meant to help stem the losses but was blocked by French stockmarket authorities.
In an interview today, Labadie told ScreenDaily.com, "If we had received that money we wouldn't be in the position we are now. Not getting it meant we had to hold on without an investor."
Regarding the Figaro article, he added, "There are some true things in the story and some false. This is the second time they have announced our death but it is also the second time we are still breathing."
Several names have been floated as possible buyers for the embattled company including Jacques Ouaniche of Noe Productions, production company Millimages or sales outfit Exception.
While saying that he was "not authorised to speak about my negotiations with investors," Labadie admitted that the above names are indeed among those interested. He added, however, that "the list is incomplete." He also stressed, "The idea is not to sell but to associate ourselves with another group."
One of Bac's strongest areas is currently video distribution. Wild Side Video, which was set up at the company by former StudioCanal executive Manuel Chiche at the AFM in 2002, reported strong earnings for the first 9 months of 2003 and, according to Labadie, is in good health.
Chiche said: "A change for Bac would prove complicated for us but Wild Side is a subsidiary that is managing very well and has no debt."
Chiche adds that he believes that the recent press coverage is a well-orchestrated manoeuvre perhaps by "a group with strong means but not necessarily a French group. It's very curious that information that was not supposed to come out has done so and if it's not incited by possible buyers then I don't know who it could be."