It all started yesterday with an article in Le Figaro; according to the French newspaper, the US fund Tiger Global is planning to put Allocine up for sale for €200m over the next months. In 2007, Tiger had acquired a majority stake of the Paris-based cinema information company for €120m.
However, it only took Allocine’s CEO Grégoire Lassalle a few hours to publish a press release that denies any imminent plans. Still, he doesn’t entirely rule out sale as an option, the financial newspaper Les Echos reports:
“If Mister Google comes to me tomorrow and tells me they want to buy my company, we’ll see,” Lassalle said, acknowledging that while Tiger Global “isn’t in a rush,” it is still, “as any fund,” looking for a buyer. But “let’s succeed in our projects for the next two years and, well, we’ll see.”
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As you may know, Allocine has been growing quite fast. In 2007, its site had 4.6m unique visitors per month, and was only starting to expand outside France.
Five years later, the company now operates web and mobile film portals under different brands (Screenrush, Adoro Cinema, Mtime, etc) and in several countries (including Brazil, China, Germany, Russia and the UK). In total, its combination of movie session times and film trailers attracts 40m unique visitors per month across the world.
‘Au revoir,’ Allocine TV
According to Le Figaro, Allocine’s financial results are also quite good, with a €28m annual turnover and revenues of €8m in 2011. Yet, it also made an apparent mistake when it decided to invest heavily in its own cable and satellite TV channel, Allocine TV, which launched in France last September.
Yesterday, Allocine officially announced that the channel would soon close, a decision that certainly contributed to speculations that Tiger Global was mulling to sell the company.
When asked about the reasons for this failure, Lassalle pointed out two factors: French regulation, which doesn’t allow TV channels to air movies on Saturday evenings, and a depressed and fragmented TV advertising market.
While Allocine had already invested €5m in this project, it would have needed at least 5 to 7 years to break even; as a result, both Tiger Global and Lassalle agreed to shutter Allocine TV, Le Figaro explains.
No matter whether or not Allocine is up for sale, the company has now decided to focus on its international growth, on which it hopes to heavily rely to reach 50m monthly unique visitors and a €50m annual turnover.
According to Le Figaro, it also wants to capitalize on the fact that its smartphone apps have already been downloaded 2.5m times, and monetize this film-focused audience.
As a matter of fact, Allocine plans to launch a free VOD platform during the last quarter of 2012, as well as a TV guide, Lassalle said in an interview.
Could these ambitious plans lure a buyer? Only time will tell, but both the rumor and its tepid denial certainly attracted attention to the company.