PINEWOOD-SHEPPERTON PREPARE IPO JUMP
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[ March 23rd 2004 ]

Pinewood-Shepperton, the UK studios used in the filming of Die Another Day, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the Carry On comedies, is seeking a stock market listing expected to value the company at about 150m ($275m). Michael Grade, the former chairman of Channel 4 and chairman of the studio, is expected to cash in his stake in the business as part of the listing.

Ridley and Tony Scott, the film director brothers, are among the other directors with sizeable shareholdings. The listing follows a review by 3i, the private equity group, which owns more than 50 per cent of the studios after funding the initial 62m acquisition of Pinewood four years ago, and the subsequent acquisition of Shepperton for 35m. Although 3i considered a possible trade sale, it is now expected to float the business. Cazenove is preparing details for a possible flotation in the coming months.

"They are looking actively at an initial public offering at present," a person with knowledge of the situation said. The timing of any IPO will depend on conditions in the equity markets. 3i, which on Thursday publishes its pre-close statement ahead of its full-year results statement in May, declined to comment.

In 2002, Pinewood-Shepperton saw operating profits more than double from 4.87m to 10.4m on sales up 24 per cent at 36.9m. That growth was driven by work on the latest Bond film, the second instalment of the Harry Potter series and Tomb Raider II. Pinewood-Shepperton's television division is also used for the production of The Weakest Link, the BBC quiz show. Profits are thought to have increased again last year following completion of a restructuring and integration of Pinewood and Shepperton. Mr Grade was unavailable for comment on Monday.

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