April 18, 2018 / 9:25 AM / 7 months ago

Qatari owner of Novo Cinemas plans to sell theatres in UAE, Bahrain-sources

DUBAI, April 18 (Reuters) - Qatar’s Elan Group is working with an adviser to sell Novo Cinemas’ theatres in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

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

Elan Group, which owns Novo Cinemas through its subsidiary Gulf Film Group, is working with accounting and consultancy firm Ernst and Young to run the process, and hopes to sell 100 percent of the business in those geographies, the two sources said. They declined to provide a value for the sale.

Elan Group declined to comment. Ernst and Young was not immediately available for comment.

The Novo Cinemas transaction indicates that Qatari firms are looking to realise value from businesses operating in the boycotting countries ahead of any potential hit to those businesses amid the protracted dispute, one of the sources said.

The four Arab states that imposed a trade and transport boycott on Qatar accuse it of supporting terrorism, a charge Doha denies.

In November, Qatar First Bank said one of its units had sold its stake in UAE healthcare and education investment firm Amanat Holdings. Earlier this year Commercial Bank of Qatar said it was in talks to sell its 40 percent stake in Abu Dhabi-listed United Arab Bank.

Novo Cinemas is the largest theatre chain in the Middle East, according to Elan Group’s website. It said the chain has around 129 screens and 24,000 seats in 15 locations across the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain.

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. (Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Dale Hudson)

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