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Cineplex takeover makes sense as pressure from streamers mounts – Financial Post

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Cineplex Inc. has agreed to be bought by British theatre chain Cineworld in a $2.8-billion deal that, if approved, would create the largest cinema empire in North America, the company announced on Monday.

Cineplex is the dominant theatre banner in Canada, with a 75 per cent share of the box office. But at 1,700 screens, it’s a relatively minor player compared to a giant like Cineworld. In an industry in which streaming services are weaning studios off their dependence on cinemas, joining a giant could be the right move for Cineplex, analysts suggested Monday.

The Cineworld Group plc offer, which values Cineplex at $34 a share, would boost Cineworld’s screen count to more than 8,900 screens in North America, surpassing AMC and making it the largest cinema circuit on the continent, Cineworld chief executive Moshe Greidinger told investors on a conference call.

Cinemas have been struggling to hold on to their right to screen films exclusively for several months before they’re shown on other platforms. With studios such as Disney running their own streaming services, the pressure to shrink the theatrical window will grow, said Sam La Bell, head of research at Veritas Investment Research.

“You want to have enough bargaining power with the studios so you can have sway,” he said. “The bigger you are, the more bargaining power you have.”

The deal needs to clear several hurdles before it is approved, including a seven-week period during which Cineplex can solicit competing offers. But analysts didn’t have high expectations for the go-shop phase.

“We believe that this transaction is most likely the end game,” CIBC analyst Robert Bek wrote in a research note. “There is low probability that a white knight will step in with a competing bid, however this scenario is not off the table.”

The deal also needs regulatory approval in Canada, two-thirds approval from Cineplex shareholders, and approval from a simple majority of Cineworld shareholders. Cineworld says it already has assurances from its largest shareholder, which owns a 28 per cent stake.

We don’t see any deal threats to the deal, just some baggage to drag across the line

Robert Bek, analyst, CIBC

“While current market share of Canadian box office at 75-per-cent-plus may lead to anti-trust scrutiny from the regulatory body, we don’t see any deal threats to the deal, just some baggage to drag across the line,” Bek wrote.

If the deal goes through, Greidinger said he will roll out Cineworld’s Unlimited subscription plan in Canada, allowing moviegoers to watch as many films as they want for a monthly fee.

“The success of Unlimited is really indisputable,” Greidinger said.

After closing at about $24 on Friday, Cineplex shares soared following the acquisition announcement Monday, closing at $33.96 — just below Cineworld’s offer. The $2.8 billion transaction value includes the assumption of net debt, Cineplex said.

“Given Cineplex’s recent share price underperformance, valuation and high-quality asset mix … we are not entirely surprised,” RBC analyst Drew McReynolds wrote about the deal.

Amid turbulence in the business, Cineplex has taken strides to diversify itself, entering the restaurant sector with its Rec Room chain of pub-arcade hybrids. It also runs the Playdium arcade chain and an arcade-equipment rental business. On the movie side, Cineplex has added a slate of premium screening options — VIP theatres, enhanced viewing experiences such as UltraAVX and 4D — to distinguish itself from the experience of watching at home, allowing the company to extract more revenue from a shrinking audience base, La Bell said.

While Greidinger spoke positively about Cineplex’s non-theatre businesses on Monday, analysts questioned how long they’d last after the entirely debt-financed deal.

“Asset sales are probably in the mix,” Le Bell said, suggesting that Cineworld will be motivated to pay down debt and might not be interested in staying in the restaurant business. Greidinger, however, noted that Cineplex’s arcade supplier sends equipment to other theatres in the Cineworld network.

He said Cineworld is expecting to realize US$130 million in cost savings after the purchase.

“Consolidation is a part of the life today,” Greidinger said, adding that the number of screens in his empire “is not what counts.” What counts, he said, is “cash flow and the profit.”

Theatres are ultimately competing for attention, said Kaan Yigit, president and research director at Solutions Research Group Consultants Inc. That means they’re not just up against streaming services.

“So if you want to compete for attention with that scale/size, you either have to be a narrow specialist or of a certain size yourself,” Yigit said in an email.

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RBC warns house price correction could be deepest in decades | CTV News – CTV News Toronto

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A housing correction, which has already led to four consecutive months of price declines in the previously overheated Greater Toronto Area market, could end up becoming “one of the deepest of the past half a century,” a new report from RBC warns.

New data released by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) last week revealed that the average benchmark price for a home in the GTA fell six per cent month-over-month in July to $1,074,754.

Sales were also down a staggering 47 per cent from July, 2021.

In a report published on Aug. 4, RBC Senior Economist Robert Hogue said recent data from real estate boards underlines that higher interest rates are beginning to take a “huge toll” on the market.

Hogue said that with further hikes to come, prices will likely continue to slide in the coming months.

That prediction, it should be noted, goes against a report from Royal LePage last month which painted a rosier forecast for sellers in which values would more or less holding for the rest of the year following some declines in the second quarter.

“Our expectations for further hikes by the Bank of Canada—another 75 basis points to go in the overnight rate by the fall— will keep chilling the market in the months ahead,” Hogue said. “We expect the downturn to intensify and spread further as buyers take a wait-and-see approach while ascertaining the impact of higher lending rates. Canada’s least affordable markets Vancouver and Toronto, and their surrounding regions, are most at risk in light of their excessively stretched affordability and outsized price gains during the pandemic.”

The Bank of Canada has hiked the overnight lending rate by 225 basis points since March and has warned that further hikes will be necessary given that inflation remains at a near 40-year high.

In his report, Hogue pointed out that the housing correction “now runs far and wide across Canada” but he said that it is particularly pronounced in the costlier markets of Toronto and Vancouver.

In fact, Hogue said that housing resale activity in Toronto is at its slowest pace in 13 years, outside of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stockpile of available homes is also up 58 per cent from a year ago, he noted.

“With more options to choose from and higher interest rates shrinking their purchasing budgets, buyers are able to extract meaningful price concessions from sellers,” he said, pointing out that the average price of a home in the GTA is down 13 per cent from March. “We expect buyers to remain on the defensive in the months ahead as they deal with rising interest rates and poor affordability.”

While Hogue did say that condos in the City of Toronto are likely to remain “relatively more resilient” he said that prices elsewhere will continue to fall for the time being, especially in the 905 belt “where property values soared during the pandemic.”

The July data from TRREB suggested that the average price of a home in the GTA was still up one per cent from July, 2021.

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Commuters face GO transit cancellations, possible strike – CityNews

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Canada Revenue Agency plans email blitz to get Canadians to cash outstanding cheques worth $1.4-billion – The Globe and Mail

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The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is planning a massive e-mail notification campaign to reach Canadians across the country who have uncashed cheques worth a net $1.4-billion.

The e-mail notifications will target recipients of the Canada child benefit and related provincial and territorial programs, as well as recipients of the GST/HST credits and the Alberta Energy Tax Refund.

The CRA said it plans to send approximately 25,000 e-mails in August, another 25,000 in November and a further 25,000 e-mails by May, 2023.

However, even without receiving an e-mail notification, the agency said a taxpayer can check if they have a cheque by logging into My Account, a secure portal on its website to check if they have an uncashed cheque over a period of six months. It added that representatives can also view uncashed cheques of their clients.

Each year, the CRA said it issues millions of payments to Canadian taxpayers in the form of refund benefits. These payments are issued by either direct deposit or by cheque.

“Over time, payments can remain uncashed for various reasons, such as the taxpayer misplacing the cheque or even a change of address which did not allow for delivery,” the agency said in a statement.

The CRA said since the e-mail notification initiative was first launched in February, 2020, about two million uncashed cheques valued at $802-million were redeemed by May 31, 2022.

The average amount per uncashed cheque is $158 with some of them dating as far back as 1998, the agency said.

As of May, 2022, there were an estimated 8.9 million uncashed cheques with the CRA. In May, 2019, about five million Canadians had an estimated 7.6 million uncashed cheques.

“As government cheques never expire or stale date, the CRA cannot void the original cheque and re-issue a new one unless requested by the taxpayer,” the statement read. “These upcoming e-notifications are to encourage taxpayers to cash any cheques they have in their possession.”

The agency said taxpayers can register for the direct deposit option on its website to receive payments directly into their bank accounts.

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