Belgian exhibition giant, Kinepolis Group, is delaying its international expansion plans by one full year, according to a report in Belgian newspaper De Financieel-Economische Tijd.

Planned cinema complexes in Granada and Nancy will be opened in 2003 rather than 2002 and other investment plans have been postponed from 2003 to 2004.

Kinepolis, a Belgium-based company with cinemas in seven European countries, says it has chosen to delay the projects to help cut at least 20% of its mounting Euros 264m debt.

The company reported a 16.7% increase in sales at Belgian cinemas during the first half of this year, and it projects an additional 15% sales increase in Belgium by year-end.

Since 1999, Kinepolis has increased its number of screens from 219 to 331 - some 30,000 more seats.

In the first half of this year, Kinepolis had a turnover of Euros 124.7m compared with Euros 101m for the same period last year. But, last year, the company still consolidated its 25% stake in German cinema group CinemaxX. Not counting its share in CinemaxX, turnover for Kinepolis rose by 52 percent.