KUALA LUMPUR • Billionaire Robert Kuok is seeking a buyer for Golden Screen Cinemas, Malaysia's largest movie theatre chain, in a deal that could fetch as much as US$500 million (S$679 million), people with knowledge of the matter said.
PPB Group, a Kuala Lumpurlisted company controlled by the Malaysian tycoon, has received first-round bids for the cinema business, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.
The potential sale of Golden Screen Cinemas, which has 345 digital screens in Malaysia and Vietnam, comes as Asian film exhibitors have been expanding outside their home markets.
Companies in the region have announced US$16.1 billion of entertainment acquisitions in the past year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
"This is definitely an attractive target as ticket prices in Malaysia are still low relative to its peers in the region," said Mr Chris Eng, head of research at Malayan Banking insurance and takaful (type of insurance) arm Etiqa, which manages about RM25 billion (S$8.2 billion). "The sale will attract companies from the rest of Asia because there is growing acceptance of cinemas as a place for friends and families to get together."
South Korea's CJ Group agreed to buy control of Turkish cinema operator Mars Entertainment Group earlier this year.
Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, who acquired United States chain AMC Entertainment Holdings in 2012, added to the purchase this year with deals for Carmike Cinemas Inc and Britain's Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group.
Ms Koh Mei Lee, chief executive officer of Golden Screen Cinemas, did not immediately respond to telephone calls and an e-mail seeking comment.
Mr Kuok is Malaysia's richest person, with a net worth of US$13.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
PPB Group is a diversified company that controls the country's biggest flour miller, distributes Johnson & Johnson personal-care products, sells the Marina brand of frozen chicken nuggets and makes formaldehyde.
PPB Group's film exhibition and distribution division generated RM 65.6 million of profit last year, making it the biggest contributor after its grain and agribusiness operations, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Mr Kuok controls the conglomerate through his holding company Kuok Brothers, which owns 50.8 per cent of PPB Group, according to its annual report.