July 2, 2018 / 11:57 AM / 5 months ago

India's Carnival in talks to buy cinemas in UAE, Bahrain - sources

DUBAI, July 2 (Reuters) - India’s Carnival Cinemas and a partner in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are in talks to buy Qatar-based Novo Cinemas’ theatres in the UAE and Bahrain, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The potential deal highlights moves to separate cross-border businesses in the Gulf following a boycott imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt since June 2017.

Carnival Cinemas has been in talks with UAE-based Emirates National Holdings as a potential co-investor, one of the sources said. Carnival operates in 115 cities in India, according to its website.

Foreign companies typically partner with local companies in the Gulf due to ownership laws. Bollywood films are popular in the UAE and Gulf, where there is a sizeable South Asian community.

Qatar’s Elan Group has been working with an adviser to sell Novo Cinemas’ theatres in the UAE and Bahrain, Reuters reported on April 18.

Elan Group and Emirates National Holdings were not immediately available for comment on Monday. Carnival Cinemas declined to comment.

The potential deal suggests some Qatari firms are looking to realise value from businesses operating in the boycotting countries ahead of any potential hit to those assets from the protracted dispute.

The four Arab states that cut political, trade and transport ties with Qatar accuse it of supporting terrorism, a charge Doha denies.

Novo Cinemas has around 129 screens and 24,000 seats in 15 locations across the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain, according to Elan Group’s website.

Regional film distributor Gulf Film Group established Novo Cinemas, formerly known as Grand Cinemas, in 2000 in Dubai.

In 2012, Gulf Film Group was incorporated into Elan Group, a diversified conglomerate whose activities span advertising, signage, event management, film distribution and movie theatres. (Additional reporting by Katie Paul in Dubai and Sankalp Phartiyal in Mumbai; Editing by Mark Potter)

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