Billionaire Robert Kuok is seeking a buyer for Golden Screen Cinemas Sdn., Malaysia’s largest movie-theater chain, in a deal that could fetch as much as $500 million, people with knowledge of the matter said.
PPB Group Bhd., a Kuala Lumpur-listed company controlled by the Malaysian tycoon, has received first-round bids for the cinema business, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.
The potential sale of Golden Screen Cinemas, which has 345 digital screens in Malaysia and Vietnam, comes as Asian film exhibitors have been expanding outside their home markets. Companies in the region have announced $16.1 billion of entertainment acquisitions in the past year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“This is definitely an attractive target, as ticket prices in Malaysia are still low relative to its peers in the region,” said Chris Eng, head of research at Malayan Banking Bhd.’s insurance and takaful arm Etiqa, which manages about 25 billion ringgit ($6.1 billion). “The sale will attract companies from the rest of Asia because there is growing acceptance of cinemas as a place for friends and families to get together.”
South Korea’s CJ Group agreed to buy control of Turkish cinema operator Mars Entertainment Group earlier this year. Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, who acquired US chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. in 2012, added to the purchase this year with deals for Carmike Cinemas Inc. and the UK’s Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group.
PPB Group regularly evaluates strategic options for its businesses, including Golden Screen Cinemas, to optimize shareholder value, it said in an exchange filing on Tuesday. No decision has been made to pursue any particular option, and no transaction has been agreed, according to the filing. Koh Mei Lee, chief executive officer of Golden Screen Cinemas, didn’t immediately respond to phone calls and an e-mail seeking comment.
Kuok is Malaysia’s richest person with a net worth of $13.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. PPB Group is a diversified company that controls the country’s biggest flour miller, distributes Johnson & Johnson personal-care products, sells “Marina” brand frozen chicken nuggets and makes formaldehyde.
PPB Group’s film exhibition and distribution division generated 65.6 million ringgit of profit last year, making it the biggest contributor after its grain and agribusiness operations, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Kuok controls the conglomerate through his holding company Kuok Brothers Sdn., which owns 50.8 percent of PPB Group, according to its annual report.