France's StudioCanal has started a procedure to exercise its right to take a controlling stake in leading French television production and distribution group, Expand.

The call right to the 20.4% stake, held by Finexpand, will give StudioCanal a controlling 53.7% stake in the company, formed in February 2000 by the merger of Expand and StudioCanal's TV production and distribution division, Ellipse Programmes.

The right has to be exercised before March 31. However, at the end of the proceeding to determine the value of Expand shares, StudioCanal can either decide to exercise the right immediately or postpone its decision until March 2003.

The Expand/Ellipse group, which operates under the Expand banner, controls a library of more than 5,000 hours of television programmes, including over 1,500 hours of drama programming, 625 hours of documentaries and 510 hours of animated programmes.

Expand - co-chaired by Patrick Wallaert and Philipe Poiret - produces some 1,800 hours of programmes per year and is expected to post revenues of $196m (FFr1.4bn) in 2000.