Cathay to focus on property business, lend iconic name to mm2 Asia's Singapore cinema operations

Cathay Organisation will be focusing on its property business after having sold its cinema chain and brand to entertainment company mm2. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - With the sale of the historic Cathay cinema chain and brand, the parent Cathay Organisation will now focus on its property business, said managing director Choo Meileen on Tuesday (Nov 28).

Meanwhile, entertainment company mm2 Asia, which paid S$230 million for the eight-cinema chain, clarified that the deal did not mean it would necessarily restrict the distribution of its films to its own cineplexes.

But it is eyeing "collaboration opportunities" with studios, courtesy of the Cathay brand's cachet, mm2 Asia executive chairman Melvin Ang added, at a joint press conference.

The acquisition of the Cathay Cineplexes unit, first announced on Nov 2, was completed on Nov 24.

mm2 Asia had previously bought two Cathay cinemas in Malaysia, as part of a portfolio across the Causeway that now stands at 19 theatres.

But it did not have the rights to the Cathay name and rebranded its Malaysia operations mmCineplexes.

Ong Hock Seng, chief executive of mmCineplexes, said that the company is weighing keeping the Cathay name in the Singapore market and the mmCineplexes brand in Malaysia. "On the consumer front, we may use different branding, but on the supplier front, we are one unit," he told The Business Times on the sidelines of the press conference.

Mr Ong had earlier said at the conference that, as a homegrown company, "having a Singapore presence is fundamental to any aspirations for growing regionally".

But with a footprint on both sides of the Causeway, mm2 Asia is now ready to look "more afar", he said.

According to Mr Ang, mm2 Asia's deals in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia have made it "represented in most of the Chinese market", though he would not commit to giving specific expansion plans.

As part of a non-compete portion of the sale agreement, Cathay will be winding down its film distribution business as well.

Ms Choo, a granddaughter of the group's co-founder, told media that the "very difficult" decision to sell off part of the family business was made because "as a cinema company alone, I didn't think we could have survived for very long".

"I didn't want to sell it to a hedge fund, which I think would just flip it," she added. "And I wanted to sell it to a local company. I didn't want to sell to a foreign company, like what Golden Village has done."

Hong Kong's Orange Sky Golden Harvest Entertainment (Holdings) in October consolidated its stake in the Golden Village chain here.

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