Ster Century Europe, the South African-owned cinema operator, has announced it is to sell its nine sites in the UK, Ireland and Spain in a move that will leave the company with only one site in Slovakia.

According to a statement, the decision to put the sites on the auction block comes on the back of a number of approaches from interested third parties. ING Investment Banking has been appointed to conduct the sale of the cinemas.

Ster, which has seven sites in the UK and Ireland and two sites in Spain, last year sold the majority of its European cinema interests. In February, its sites in the Czech Republic and Hungary were sold for $18.5m to UCI Central Europe, and in July Polish and Greek sites were sold for a combined Euros 30.6m.

During 2002, Ster's marketshare in the UK and Ireland rose from 1.9% to 2.5%, with sites in Norwich, Romford, Edinburgh, Leeds, Basingstoke and Cardiff. The company's Liffey Valley cinema in Dublin is one of the top five cinemas in the UK and Irish market with 1.7 million admissions last year.

The Ster Century Europe circuit was put on the sales block in 2000, but was withdrawn after a $80m refinancing package was secured.