France's Canal Plus will float subsidiary Canal Plus Image on the French stock exchange before summer 2000 and probably no later than June according to an interview with Canal Plus chairman Pierre Lescure in French magazine Le Nouvel Economiste.
Image regroups all of the French pay-TV giant's film activities and is one of Europe's largest film rights companies. It includes Le Studio Canal Plus and its various European offshoots as well as a 5,500-title film library.
The move had already been announced in early 1999, but no precise date had been set. The flotation implied a re-organisation of Canal Plus' structure - which has recently included the out-sourcing of television production and distribution activities through a merger with the Expand group - as well as the setting up of a 'European studio operation' to handle titles acquired or produced by the group.
By the time of the float, Le Studio's distribution network - which already includes Bac Distribution in France, Tobis in Germany, Cineart in Benelux and Sogepaq in Spain - is likely to be completed by a similar operation in Italy, where Rai's theatrical arm is being tipped as a likely partner, and the UK.
Canal Plus Image's annual sales amounted to euro339m in 1999, down 6.7% from euro363.4m the previous year.