STX Entertainment, as has long been suggested would be the case, has filed for an IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange. If accepted, the proposal would make Bob Simonds’ burgeoning studio the first U.S.-based entertainment company to go public on the Hong Kong exchange.
The company was valued at $1.5B last year, however, it has been reported previously that the company could be valued as high as $3.5B after the IPO. Since its inception, STX has been modeling itself to become a major entertainment company along the lines of Viacom and this is yet another step in the path to achieve that goal.
STX Entertainment CEO Simonds has been hinting that they might go public for some two and a half years now when China’s Tencent and Hong Kong telecom giant PCCW led an investment round in STX with the specific aim of building a studio.
The U.S. exchange is different from Hong Kong in that overseas there is a multi-step process with extreme vetting and then they look at who is sponsoring the company. In this case, STX Entertainment is being sponsored by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, as the filing shows. It also doesn’t hurt that TPG Growth’s Bill McGlashan has been heavily involved since the company’s beginning.
TPG Growth is a global private investment firm which is backed by parent TPG and together they have invested in CAA, Sabre Holdings (Travelocity), Evolution Media Growth Partners, and Univision, to name a few. McGlashan has done business with the Chinese for about 30 years.
The listing would likely come against a slate of a Melissa McCarthy comedy The Happytime Murders, the Jennifer Lopez-starring Second Act and as STX works to develop a multi-platform franchise with the Ugly Dolls IP, all of which it played up during a fresh CinemaCon presentation this week. Around town, the perception is that it only had one movie that succeeded — Bad Moms — when it grossed $183.9M worldwide on a relatively modest budget of $20M, but other STX films have pulled in a profit.
STX is known to keep budgets in the $20M-$60M range and started an international division to mitigate risk, but it has made some missteps with pictures like Free State Of Jones which pulled in only $25M on a production budget (not counting P&A) of about $50M.
The most recent outing, I Feel Pretty starring Amy Schumer grossed $16M in its debut this past weekend, making it the lowest opening for the actress/comedian. STXfilms has always been the first to talk about the economics of its movies and keeping costs down. The company said it only they had a 50% exposure on combined acquisition and P&A expenses of $45M.
Other projects from STX have been a mixed bag and have included the successful The Foreigner starring Middle Kingdom favorite Jackie Chan and directed by Martin Campbell, Gringo with Amazon Studios starring Charlize Theron and Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game starring Jessica Chastain.
But it has methodically been building up its business since it began, adding divisions over the years and hiring top executives, including former Universal chairman Adam Fogelson as chairman of its STXFilms division and former Universal International chief David Kosse who opened the UK office and launched the international division.
The company also entered into direct agreements with U.S. exhibitors to ensure screens for its movies, which was unconventional. It sealed a multi-year Home Entertainment deal with Universal and produced a 13-episode series State Of Affairs, which it sold to NBC. It also acquired Surreal, a VR content producer and then began a VR Channel with Google Daydream to distribute original VR content.
Last November, STX received an investment from Liberty Global, John Malone’s international TV and broadband company. As part of the stake pact, Liberty Global chief programming officer Bruce Mann joined STX’s board of directors. And if you look at the board of directors, it’s pretty hefty.
STX Entertainment’s board is made up of Simonds, McGlashan, founding partner of TPG Capital David Bonderman, Hony Capital CEO John Zhao and Hony’s managing director Tacy Cui (Hony was the very first investor in the company), MWM Studio founder Gigi Pritzker, PCCW Media Group managing director Janice Lee, former president and CEO of Viacom, former chairman and CEO of Universal Studios and father-in-law of Simonds Frank Biondi, East West Bank Chairman/CEO Dominic Ng, and Chairman of Asia for New Enterprise Assoc Carmen Chang.