Entertainment One has denied press reports that it has been the subject of a takeover approach from Brit broadcaster-producer ITV. In a statement, eOne reps said, ““Entertainment One notes the press speculation regarding a potential offer. No approach has been received by eOne,” in a note to the London stock market Thursday morning.
That statement is in response to a report that ITV is reportedly considering making an offer to acquire the Canadian media conglom Entertainment One, according to Bloomberg. The move, if it ever realizes into an official bid and eventual deal, would be a considerable statement of intent from the UK broadcaster-producer. Both companies have had their challenges in recent months, despite both being in expansive, acquisitive moods.
Last year, Entertainment One separately concluded deals to join Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners along with Participant Media and the Reliance Group in what was essentially the latest incarnation of DreamWorks. The deal, which closed in December, allows eOne to expand its relationship in television production and distribution across additional foreign territories and handle the direct distribution of Amblin Partners films on a multi-territory output basis in Australia/New Zealand and Spain as well as the UK and Benelux, where it previously had a successful output arrangement with DreamWorks Studios.
In September, eOne acquired a 70% stake in Peppa Pig producer Astley Baker Davies worth $212 million, while the company also acquired a majority stake in the Mark Gordon company at the start of last year with the ambition to turn it into a production powerhouse.
Despite that, eOne’s share price is currently trading at half of its value over the last 12 months, with the market asking question’s about the company’s level of debt and strategic direction. Shares jumped over 11% Thursday morning on the London exchange on news of the potential ITV deal. The share price was trading at £177.50 at the time of writing.
ITV has also been in an acquisitive mood, both on a corporate level and bringing in high level execs. In a fairly seismic move for the British broadcasting scene, the BBC’s drama chief Polly Hill joined ITV last week as their new head of drama. The surprising news came as ITV bolstered its exec lineup after a number of recent departures. Also joining were Optomen managing director Sue Murphy as commissioner for factual entertainment, with ITV Studios’ Siobhan Greene becoming the commissioning team’s head of entertainment and Peter Davey promoted to head of comedy. Angela Jain will take over as managing director of ITV Studios Entertainment.
ITV announced only days earlier that drama boss Steve November would be leaving the company after 16 years. November’s exit came at a challenging time for ITV, following the end of ratings juggernaut Downton Abbey. While the distribution side of the business ITV Studios has continued to expand and grow ambitiously with a number of acquisitions and first-look deals, the channel has suffered from a ratings decline. Big-budget gambles such as Jekyll And Hyde and Beowulf have not worked as hoped with audiences.
In terms of corporate acquisitions, ITV last year bought Boom Supervisory Limited, the holding company of Brit TV production banner Twofour Group, from majority shareholder LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group. ITV payed an initial cash consideration of $86 million for 75% of the group, with a put and call option for the remaining 25% that can be exercised at the end of 2017 and between the end of 2019 and 2021, with any further payment subject to minimum average EBITA thresholds. Additionally, Twofour owns 51% of drama indie Mainstreet Pictures and has a put and call option to acquire the remaining 49% of its subsidiary Mainstreet that can be exercised between 2018 and 2023. The total maximum consideration for Twofour and the remaining 49% of Mainstreet is $440 million with contingent payments dependent on both businesses delivering exceptional profit growth to $94 million in aggregate over the payment period.
In recent months, ITV has also taken full control of Mammoth Screen and closed a deal to acquire 100% of John De Mol’s Talpa in a deal worth an initial $530 million. In the past two years, the company has bought a string of U.S. and UK production companies, including Big Talk, The Garden and Leftfield Entertainment.
One deal that fell by the wayside, however, was the mooted purchase of the Weinstein Co’s TV division.