Vue Sold to Omers, Alberta Investment for $1.5 Billion

Vue Entertainment Ltd. was bought by two Canadian pension-fund managers looking to continue the expansion of one of Europe’s largest cinema operators for 935 million pounds ($1.45 billion).

Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System and Alberta Investment Management Corp. are buying Vue from private-equity firm Doughty Hanson & Co. and the London-based cinema operator’s management, according to a statement today by the three companies.

Vue, which operates in countries including the U.K., Germany and Portugal, has doubled the number of cinemas it owns in the past three years. Chief Executive Officer Tim Richards will retain an equity stake and remain in charge, according to the statement. Vue, which in recent months bought rivals in Poland and Germany, will continue making “strategic acquisitions” where appropriate, Richards said today.

“This is the most active time in Europe for cinema in probably the past 10 years because the banks are back in business and supporting companies and assets” are for sale, he said in an interview.

The deal should close at the end of July, according to the statement. The Ontario pension fund, known as Omers, and Alberta Investment plan to use their own funds to finance the buyout before finalizing debt financing by early August, according to a person familiar with the deal who asked not to be named as the details are private.

James Devas, a spokesman in London for Omers, declined to comment on the debt financing.

‘Patient Capital’

Vue is the second-largest cinema operator outside North America and has more than 1,300 screens at 146 cinemas across Europe, according to the statement.

“People have suggested that” an acquisition of Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group Ltd. “may be the next step in a consolidation,” Aimco CEO Leo De Bever said in a phone interview from Edmonton, Alberta. “But we’re not in any discussions on that one.”

Omers approached London-based Odeon in 2011 with BC Partners Ltd. to purchase the chain, two people familiar with the plan said at the time. The pension funds may run into regulatory issues if they seek to acquire Odeon because of the large market share it would command, De Bever said.

“Presumably, if you had that kind of concentration, you might get a bit more push back from the regulators,” De Bever said. “That’s not on the table right now.” He doesn’t expect there to be any regulatory issues in the Vue deal.

Canada Pensions

Omers is one of Canada’s largest pension funds with more than C$61 billion ($60 billion) in assets. Alberta Investment has more than C$70 billion under management, according to the statement.

“Our combined ownership gives Vue the distinct advantage of patient capital and deep pockets for organic and acquisitive growth,” Mark Redman, the head of Europe at Omers Private Equity, said in the statement.

Doughty Hanson bought Vue in November 2010. The disposal is the second from its Doughty Hanson V fund after the sale of Norit, a maker of water-purification systems, the company said. The firm is in the process of raising about 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion) for its sixth buyout fund, Doughty Hanson VI. It will be the firm’s first fundraising since the death of co-founder Nigel Doughty in February 2012.

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