GUY Hands’ private equity firm Terra Firma is putting into motion the estimated £1bn sale of Odeon cinemas that was first touted in February.
Chinese billionaire Wang Jianli’s leisure and property conglomerate Dalian Wanda, the world’s largest cinema operator, has already been sniffing around the sale, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
Last year there was a management shake-up at Odeon, which operates more than 2,000 screens in the UK and Europe, that left the company in “fantastic shape for a bid,” according to sources.
Terra Firma bought Odeon in 2004 and merged it with rival chain UCI to counter heavy losses and deliver a pre-tax profit of £14.5m for the first half of this year. It has tried to sell Odeon twice before; in 2011, when it failed to find a £1.2bn bid it was seeking at the time, and then again in 2013.
Not everything has gone smoothly for Hands in recent years – in 2007 Terra Firma and its backers lost the £1.7bn they put into the £2.4bn acquisition of EMI.
Four Seasons Healthcare, Terra Firma’s largest investment since EMI, is struggling with interest payments of more than £50m a year on debts of more than £500m and this summer launched a financial review as losses rose to £26m in the second quarter.
A statement from Dalian Wanda said:
"No individual from Wanda Group has ever been in contact with Odeon, nor has any individual or third party organisation been appointed on behalf of the Wanda Group to engage in contact with Odeon regarding any matters related to the acquisition of the cinema chain. Wanda has no intention of purchasing Odeon cinema chain."