Dutch media giant Endemol Entertainment plans to expand its role as a producer for cinema and television in Germany with the purchase of a number of film production companies.

In an interview with the business daily Handelsblatt, Endemol Deutschland general manager Werner Schwaderlapp revealed that negotiations are already underway for the acquisition of majority 51% stakes in four to five film production companies this year.

He stressed that the size of the companies under consideration played no role, although other sources reported that Endemol's shopping list does not include any publicly listed companies.

Endemol's planned return to this market - it sold its 23% stake in Helkon Media in August 2000, after it said that it wanted to withdraw from the area of film production - is explained by its seeing little potential for further growth in the field of entertainment, where it is market leader in the production of light entertainment shows.

In addition, the new acquisitions would form part of an international network of film production companies under the Endemol umbrella, with other production houses in Italy and Spain.

As observers have suggested, given the increasing concentration in the TV production sector in Germany, it would seem an astute move for independent producers to ally themselves with a strong partner with access to financial resources to bankroll projects as other companies have done by seeking a home within the KirchGroup or Bertelsmann's Ufa.

At the moment, Endemol's German production activities include show producer Endemol Productions; Endemol Filmproduktion Muenchen, which was founded in May 1999 and has produced five TV movies; a 50% stake in the interactive TV producer Hurricane Fernsehproduktion; and a 50/50% joint venture in the infotainment outfit META Produktion.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has agreed to re-instate the independent status of TV producer Endemol UK, thus allowing it greater access to foreign investment from European broadcasters.