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Business – Anil Ambani may bid for MGM to expand Hollywood footprint

Rohini Singh

NEW DELHI: Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Entertainment is likely to put in a bid for the iconic film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or MGM, as it
seeks to increase its presence in Hollywood beyond its existing tie-up with Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studio, a person privy to the development told ET.

MGM, the owner of a library with more than 4,000 titles, including classics such as the Pink Panther and James Bond movies and more recent ones such as Legally Blonde, a series of comedy films, has been put on the block by its lenders, a consortium of over 100 financiers led by JPMorgan.

Twelve potential bidders with background in media and movie-making have signed non-disclosure agreements, according to a Reuters report. Banking sources said Reliance Entertainment is among them.

Preliminary non-binding bids were expected on Friday, according to agency reports. But the person privy to the development said Friday was no longer the deadline. Instead, bids, including one from Reliance Entertainment, is likely come in next week. The request for bids was made in mid-December and potential acquirers had sought an extension, according to a number of persons familiar with the deal. A non-binding bid means a bidder can later withdraw or amend his offer.

Reliance Entertainment, which is savouring the success of its last two films — 3 Idiots and Paa — is expected to finalise its bid for MGM next week, said another person close to the deal who did not wish to be identified.

Senior Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group official Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, who is also on the board of DreamWorks, Mr Spielberg’s movie studio which is 50% owned by Mr Ambani, is believed to have met with the studio heads of MGM and the bankers in Los Angeles last week. When contacted, a spokesperson for Reliance Entertainment said “as a policy, we do not comment on speculation”.

However, a source close to the situation told ET that the company was looking at raising debt from banks to finance the deal. Mr Jhunjhunwala, who heads the media and entertainment businesses of ADAG, was not available for comment.

MGM has appointed boutique investment bank Moelis & Co, headed by Ken Moelis, a UBS veteran who spearheaded the Swiss Bank’s growth in the US, to find potential buyers. The lenders, who are driving the transaction, are seeking a little over $2 billion, but bids could come in considerably lower than that. The other serious bidders in the fray are Fox Studios, the movie-making arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Lions Gate Entertainment and Warner Brothers.

MGM has debt of $3.7 billion from a 2005 buyout by a group of private-equity and media firms. The valuation of $2 billion is the market value of the debt which is traded among its creditors. “They (the lenders) want a premium to the $2 billion. But it’s unlikely that will happen. If anything, it may come in lower,” said the person quoted earlier.

The studio’s equity-holders are PE firms Providence Equity Partners, DLJ Partners, TPG Inc and the Quadrangle Group and media companies Sony and Comcast, according to a Reuters report. The shareholders are unlikely to get anything, as the valuation is pegged to the debt. If the bids are too low, the lenders have the option of rejecting them and restructuring MGM under court protection, a procedure popularly known as Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Reliance Entertainment had made a big-bang Hollywood debut last year by agreeing to invest $825 million in DreamWorks, one of the largest deals in global cinema in recent times. The figure of $825 million includes an investment of $325 million by Mr Ambani to buy a 50% stake in DreamWorks.

The bid for MGM is in line with Reliance Entertainment’s move to acquire global content. Reliance Entertainment already has partnerships with Hollywood A-Listers such as Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Tom Hanks, apart from the deal with Mr Spielberg.

Reliance Entertainment and DreamWorks have announced that, to start with, they would make three films together. The first DreamWorks motion picture to be released under the Touchstone Pictures banner is scheduled to hit theatres this year.

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January 15, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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