Vue Entertainment, the UK’s biggest cinema chain, is to delay plans for a blockbuster stock market debut as one of its Canadian shareholders prepares to auction a big stake in the company.
Sky News has learnt that Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) will begin talks in the coming weeks with prospective buyers of its 37% shareholding in Vue.
The decision to offload its stake, which will generate proceeds of several hundred million pounds, will mean that an initial public offering (IPO) of Vue is likely to be pushed back until at least the first half of next year, according to insiders.
AIMCo has been an investor in Vue for five years.
JPMorgan, the investment bank, is understood to have been hired to handle the sale.
Sources said that other financial investors were likely to bid for the stake, with cinema operators from Mexico and South Korea also potentially interested.
The process will come at a mixed time for the industry in the UK, with multiplex operators hoping for a blockbuster performance from the latest instalment in the Jurassic Park franchise, among other major summer releases.
In results announced in April, Vue said it had seen its highest UK admissions for five years during the first quarter to the end of February, with attendance driven by Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle.
However, it said market admissions in March were down more than 10% on the same month in 2017.
Vue also operates in countries including Italy, Poland and Germany.
The company is also 37%-owned by Omers, another Canadian pension fund, with management led by Tim Richards, its founder, holding the remaining 26%.
Hopes of a stock market listing were fuelled by the appointment last year of Adam Crozier, the former ITV, Royal Mail and Football Association chief executive, as Vue’s chairman.
Vue’s other big strategic move in recent months has been the signing of an agreement to expand its business into Saudi Arabia for the first time.
Mr Richards described it as “a huge moment in the history of global cinema development”.
Vue is not the only British cinema chain preparing for a partial ownership change.
Odeon’s parent, the US-based group AMC Entertainment, is working with Citi and Goldman Sachs on a London flotation expected to take place this year.
In a statement issued to Sky News, a Vue spokeswoman said:
“Shareholders will always consider timely opportunities to realise their successful investments a part of any natural investment strategy and cycle.
“AIMCo have been working with us for nearly five years now, during this period the business has grown substantially internationally and out-performed in all areas, as it continues to do so, and we have had a very successful relationship.”
AIMCo declined to comment on Thursday.