Private equity financier Cinven is understood to have sealed its previously reported (Screen International, Jan 21) deal to acquire Odeon Cinemas from UK leisure company Rank Group for £325m ($534m), according to industry sources.

The deal is likely to spawn one of Europe's largest cinema circuits if the Cinven-funded Associated British Cinemas (ABC) operation is merged with the Odeon circuit.

Odeon is the UK's market leader both in terms of size and box office share and has an equal combination of multiplexes and traditional cinemas - 460 screens in total. ABC, formed in 1996 through the Cinven-led $134m (£82m) buyout of the former MGM circuit, runs 183 screens and is headed by veteran exhibitor Barry Jenkins. During 1999 however, both exhibitors closed several of their least profitable cinemas.

Headed by Richard Segal, Odeon invested extensively in relaunching Odeon's corporate identity in 1998, including their flagship cinema in Leicester Square. Segal is expected to run the new super-circuit of around 650 screens.

The deal, still being finalised by investment bank Goldman Sachs, comes hot of the heels of the $250m sale of Rank's nightclubs to Northern Leisure. Rank declined to comment.