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Mohammed Fayed Mulls Bid For Pinewood

By | Thursday April 21, 2011 @ 6:10am PDT

Mohammed Fayed, the controversial ex-owner of Harrods department store in London, has emerged as a surprise contender to buy Britain’s premier movie studio Pinewood Shepperton, best known as the production base for the James Bond franchise. Fayed  says that he is considering making an all-cash offer for the studio group. He sold Harrods last year for £1.5 billion ($2.5 billion). “It’s very early stages,” Fayed’s spokesman tells me. According to reports, Fayed thinks the James Bond studio needs investment to return it to its glory days. Ridley Scott is currently shooting Prometheus there until mid-July, and sets are being built for Dark Shadows starting May. Fayed’s bid would throw a spanner in the works for lead Pinewood shareholder Peel Holdings, which has just made a bid worth £88 million for the studio. Peel would have to increase its offer if it is to prevail over Fayed, say analysts. The market certainly likes what it’s hearing: Pinewood Shepperton’s shares were up 11% this morning to 224p per share. This is not the first time Fayed has gotten involved in the movie business. Back in the early 80s, he was an early investor in Chariots of Fire. His son, Dodi, also spent time in Los Angeles as a producer.

Peel Holdings is a property investor, and it wants to get Pinewood Shepperton’s sprawling 150-acre grounds and backlot working harder. Around 300 indie film companies are currently based at the 3 sites of Pinewood, … Read More »

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Pinewood Debates Management Buyout

The publicly-quoted studio facility faces a renewed attack by shareholder Crystal Amber on Wednesday, when it announces its half-year results. Pinewood is expected to announce operating profits have fallen from last year’s £3.3 million ($5 million). Crystal Amber thinks that all the value of the company is locked up in its property portfolio. But Michael Grade, chairman of Pinewood Shepperton, insists Pinewood is a media company, not a property developer. Crystal Amber counters that the studio group hasn’t been paying its property assets enough attention. Stockbroker Investec has calculated that 82% of Pinewood’s value lies in its property assets, not studio operations. The group could make a lot of money selling off some of its portfolio.

Grade and his team are thinking about taking Pinewood Shepperton private again, says the Sunday Times. Crystal Amber has been quietly building up its shareholding to nearly 27% — just edging past second-biggest shareholder Peel Holdings. One idea might be to spin off Pinewood’s property management to a Peel executive, freeing up Grade and CEO Ivan Dunleavy to concentrate on running the studio. Hollywood movies shooting in Britain this summer include Disney’s Pirates Of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, X-Men: First Class – both at Pinewood – and Captain America, filming at Shepperton.

Pinewood shares floated at 180p back in 2004, but today are worth only 168p.

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