Canadian funds buy British cinema chain Vue for $1.5 bn

Two Canadian investment funds have acquired British cinema chain Vue Entertainment from private equity firm Doughty Hanson, for £935 million ($1.5 billion).

The buyers are Omers Private Equity (OPE), the investment arm of Canada's public-sector pension fund, and Alberta Investment Management Corporation.

Doughty Hanson had acquired Vue Entertainment in 2010 for £450 million and expanded the chain beyond the UK to make it one of Europe's largest multiplex chains.

It doubled the number of cinemas under its ownership from 70 to 146 and the number of screens from 678 to 1,321.

During its ownership period, Vue made three acquisitions. It acquired Apollo Cinemas in the UK and CinemaxX, Germany's second largest operator in 2012, and this month agreed to buy Multikino, the second largest operator in Poland.

Doughty Hanson said that it and its co-investors have more than doubled their investment in Vue.

''This sale is Doughty Hanson's second realisation from Doughty Hanson & Co. V, which has now returned 52 per cent of commitments to investors with a further six investments still to realise,'' it said in a statement.

''It has been a successful and exciting investment, helping the company to develop into one of the world's largest cinema operators with the most advanced technology, and industry leading operating metrics. We said at the time of the acquisition that Vue offered a strong platform for growth and we are pleased to have been able to take advantage of this opportunity to return significant cash to our investors,'' said, Julian Huxtable, a partner at Doughty Hanson.

Tim Richards, founder and CEO of Vue, said, ''It has been a pleasure to work with Doughty Hanson during this stage of the company's development. The team has made a major contribution to the ongoing growth and success of the business and I have been very grateful for their commitment and support.''