Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp has answered market and media speculation, confirming that it has “started discussions with various financial and/or business partners in order to reinforce its financial capacities.” This follows word last week that the studio was weighing its options as it struggles under recent losses, stemming in part from a costly gamble on 2017’s Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets. International investors are thought to be kicking the tires of the Paris-headquartered company, although the structure of a potential deal is not decided and none of the potential partners have exclusivity.
Last week, it was reported that Franco-Tunisian businessman Tarak Ben Ammar, a board memeber at Vivendi and The Weinstein Co, where he is currently helping to complete a sale amid the wreckage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, was among the potential Europa suitors. I understand it is unlikely he would outright buy the company. Multiple other players have expressed interest in EuropaCorp in a manner of ways including via investments or certain catalog asset acquisitions.
It is not surprising that EuropaCorp would be considering options. The company posted an $83 million net loss in its six-month financial results in December, attributed to the underperformance of its slate, which was largely anchored around Besson’s $200M-$210M sci-fi opus Valerian, as well as the Tom Hanks movie The Circle and the period pic Their Finest. That loss followed a $136M loss for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017.
Europa today reiterated its forward-looking strategy saying it will “refocus on core business: production of English-language feature films of up to 2 to 3 films per year, production of 2 French-language feature films per year, production of English-language TV series, distribution of films and international sales.”
The company last week began a consultation process that could see the layoff of 22 employees, and it sold its French television division to European media group Mediawan.
Separately, Europa said today that the Paris Court of Appeal has overturned a ruling on a claim last May by four illustrators of Besson’s animated Arthur movies. If it had been upheld, it would have entitled the claimants to larger compensation but Besson maintained their work was “secondary” and the appeals judge agreed and confirmed the validity of every contract and the absence of any counterfeiting.