French production and TV sales operation Tele Images International is to back the buyout of GTV from integrated French major Gaumont.

Tele Images founder Simone Halberstadt Harari and Christian Charret, chief executive of GTV (formerly known as Gaumont Television), have jointly bought out Gaumont's remaining equity interest in GTV. The two companies will now be run as a confederation of producers, with output spanning feature film, drama and series. All forthcoming and library product will be distributed internationally by Tele Images' sales chiefs Marie-France Han and Monica Galer.

GTV is best known for its six seasons of the Highlander series, derived from the Christophe Lambert-starring movies, and is currently readying La Bicylette Bleue, a six hour mini-series starring supermodel Laeticia Casta. It has a catalogue of 500 hours and last year achieved turnover of $48m. The larger Tele France is better known for its TV movies, soaps, animation and wildlife programming. With a turnover last year of some $64m, Tele Images has backers that include NatWest, Kleinwort Benson and Havas.

Gaumont first announced that it would sell its remaining shares in Gaumont Television last August when it revealed that it had sold most of its majority holding to Charret. Although the decision was met with some surprise, Gaumont said that it preferred to concentrate its investments on the expansion of its production and exhibition activities.

In August Gaumont said that it would probably retain that minority stake until October's MIP-COM, when it hoped to announce a supplementary buyer to join Charret. Though Charret did not rule out an alliance with another French outfit, an international partner appeared the more likely choice.

The move mirrors the ongoing consolidation in the French film sales business, which in recent weeks saw the merger of Celluloid Dreams and Roissy Films and has witnessed the absorption of President Films and Artbox by France Television Distribution. "In the context of an unprecedented convergence of production companies, it is logical that two major French producers join forces to establish a prominent position on the French and the international market," said Charret.