In one of the largest City of London funding injections into the UK independent film sector since the heady days of Goldcrest, publicly-quoted Winchester Entertainment is this week raising $31.9m (£22m) on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).
Armed with this warchest, Winchester is looking to become even more involved in US production financing. A $3m development fund will be created for select US producers. In addition, Winchester is to scale up its children's TV activities and a nascent UK distribution arm that is now re-releasing Raging Bull.
The move will also give Winchester greater financing fire-power at a time when UK and US-based financier MM Media Capital Partners is launching its own sales arm. Media Capital has recently helped finance several projects which Winchester has then sold overseas.
The sale of seven million new shares at £3.15 is underwritten by stockbrokers Investec and has commitments from gilt-edged financing institutions including Gartmore, Merrill Lynch, Rothschild and Deutsche Bank. The move will value Winchester, quoted on London's AIM, at $145m (£100m), compared to its current value of almost $100m.
Winchester's share price has soared from 55p early last year to £3.45 this Wednesday, fuelled by deals for studio-level product with US producers including Chuck Gordon's Daybreak Productions. Analysts forecast a profit of $4.6m (£3.2m) this financial year, up from $145,000 (£100,000) in March 1998.