UGC has officiallydenied a report in The Times newspaper that its entire European circuitis up for sale with a price tag of £400m ($715.8m).

According to TheTimes, US buyout firm the Blackstone Group, as well as VUE Entertainment,the group formed last year by the merger of Warner Village and SBCInternational, will both submit bids for UGC's 92 international cinema sitesspanning France, the UK and Ireland, Spain, Belgium and Italy.

The paper saidother bids for the circuit are expected to be tabled by private equity firms HGCapital, BC Partners and Charterhouse as well as property investor RobertTchenguiz.

In a statementissued on Monday (Oct 4), UGC said: "The shareholders of the Guy Verrecchiafamily and Vivendi Universal deny intending to sell their shares in UGC. They clarify furthermore that they never hadknowledge of offers of sales as stated in the British press and repeated in theFrench press."

Meanwhile, TimSchoonmaker has quit his job as chief executive of Odeon Cinemas, six monthsafter taking up the post and less than a year after resigning as the head ofEmap's radio division.

Schoonmaker told TheIndependent newspaper that he had enjoyed a lucrative six months at thecinema chain, but was not willing to hang around while the future of the groupwas in the hands of the Office of Fair Trading.

According to thepaper, Terra Firma, the private equity group run by Guy Hands, which boughtOdeon and UCI cinemas in August, is awaiting the outcome of an OFT inquiry intoits two acquisitions.

The deals will givethe group a 38% share of the UK cinema market, and are expected to be subjectto a full Competition Commission inquiry, which will run into 2005.