In the latest shake-up to hit Europe's exhibition industry, Ster Kinekor's European cinema circuit Ster Century has been put on the sales block.
Joint South African shareholders Royale Resorts and Primedia are actively courting potential buyers to re-focus on their core businesses as further consolidation of the exhibition market gains momentum.
Ster Century's managing director Mike Ross has also confirmed that a management buyout of the company is under discussion: "The management firmly believe in the business as we have some great cinema assets and locations. We will certainly put in a bid provided we can get financial backing," said Ross.
Investment bank ING Barings has been appointed to circulate the Ster Century memorandum document among potential buyers.
Although a surprising decision for the aggressive European start-up, the sale is welcomed by the industry which is keen to consolidate the market to avoid the dire financial state currently ravaging the US exhibition sector. In October last year, the French exhibitor UGC purchased the UK circuit Virgin Cinemas making it one of the biggest European exhibitors. Other major French exhibitors Pathe and Gaumont may be seeking similar deals to enlarge their reach in Europe.
Meanwhile, Australia's Village Roadshow is in the process of pulling out of Europe with confirmation of Kinowelt's purchase of Village's German circuit, expected next week.
After its entry into Europe three years ago, Ster Century has invested $195.8m in opening 14 multiplexes across six territories (by the end of 2000) with another 21 sites scheduled to roll-out by 2003.