Movie World owner Village Roadshow has received a $1 billion bid from a private equity firm.
Movie World owner Village Roadshow has received a $1 billion bid from a private equity firm.

$1b bid for iconic Aussie theme park's owner

MOVIE World owner Village Roadshow has received a takeover bid from private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners worth as much as $1 billion.

"PEP has indicated it is willing to offer full cash consideration or a combination of cash and scrip," Village Roadshow told the ASX in a statement, as part of a scheme of arrangement at an indicative price of $3.90 per share.

Shares surged 17.8 per cent after the announcement to $3.77 in intraday trading.

The proposed deal comes ahead of Gold Coast-based theme parks CEO Clark Kirby preparing to take over the reins next year as boss of the whole company.

Village Roadshow’s themeparks division, which includes Movie World, had a strong 2019 financial year, with pretax earnings growing almost 100 per cent.
Village Roadshow’s themeparks division, which includes Movie World, had a strong 2019 financial year, with pretax earnings growing almost 100 per cent.

Mr Kirby's family has been involved in a bitter internal feud with uncle and deputy chairman John Kirby being critical of the young Kirby's appointment as CEO.

The PEP deal values the company at $761.2 million, not including debt.

The board of Village Roadshow, which runs Gold Coast theme parks Movie World and SeaWorld, advised its shareholders to take no action and added that it was considering the proposal.

"VRL will inform shareholders of the outcome of the discussions with PEP as soon as it is in a position to do so," the company said in a release. The company's shares had been placed in a trading halt at $3.20 ahead of the announcement.

Movie World has opened a number of attractions in the past year including enabling visitors to climb to the top of the new DC Hyper Coaster.
Movie World has opened a number of attractions in the past year including enabling visitors to climb to the top of the new DC Hyper Coaster.

Earlier this year outgoing CEO Graham Burke told the Bulletin crowds are "marching back" three years on from the Dreamworld tragedy.

Mr Burke: "We had this bomb go off with the tragedy at Dreamworld. It has taken two-and-a-half years to work through that. I think the passion is back and the crowds are marching."

The company had a strong year for its theme parks division, led by Mr Kirby, with pretax earnings growing almost 100 per cent, to $76.5 million, from $38.3 million the previous year.