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Mergers and acquisitions

Harry Potter special effects firm looks east with sale to China group

Shanghai-listed CIH buys Oscar-winning special-effects firm behind Doctor Strange in deal valuing company at £150m

Framestore worked on the Harry Potter films. Photograph: Alamy
Mergers and acquisitions

Harry Potter special effects firm looks east with sale to China group

Shanghai-listed CIH buys Oscar-winning special-effects firm behind Doctor Strange in deal valuing company at £150m

This article is 12 months old

Julia Kollewe

Thursday 3 November 2016 15.31 GMT Last modified on Friday 4 November 2016 00.05 GMT

An Oscar-winning British visual effects company, which has worked on films including Doctor Strange and the Harry Potter franchise, is selling itself to a Chinese group in a deal that values it at nearly £150m.

Framestore has agreed a deal with Cultural Investment Holdings Co (CIH) that will mean the Shanghai-listed group acquiring 75% of the business.

The remainder is owned by the firm’s founder and chief executive, Sir William Sargent, and the rest of the management team.

Framestore is currently working on Paddington 2, the sequel to last year’s box office success about the bear from Peru. The London-based firm has also performed the visual effects for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which opens later this month.

As part of the deal, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad is selling its 30% stake in Framestore along with other shareholders who used to work for the business.

“I started the process about nine months ago. We’re swapping the partners we had before for the Chinese group,” said Sargent, who set up Framestore 30 years ago and retains a 10% stake. “I’m looking east.”

Following the firm’s success in North America and Europe, it wants to tap into the fast-growing Chinese and Indian film markets. “It’s not easy to do on our own,” he said.

Sargent said CIH had been chosen from a list of 100 interested parties that included bidders from North America, the UK and Asia-Pacific.

Framestore employs two people in Beijing, the centre of the Chinese film industry, and plans to open an office there before Christmas. CIH is also based in Beijing.

Framestore started as a five-person team based in Soho, the heart of London’s creative industries, and has become one of the world’s biggest post-production houses in the film industry. It now employs 1,400 staff and has offices in London, New York, Montreal and Los Angeles.

Framestore works with Hollywood film studios Warner Bros and Disney-owned Marvel. It has won an Oscar for its work on Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity in 2014 and was nominated for Oscars for Superman Returns, The Dark Knight and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

The deal would be the latest in a series of Chinese takeovers of British companies. Cala Homes, the UK’s largest private housebuilder, is reportedly in talks with Chinese property developer Evergrande Group, whose shareholders include Alibaba chief executive Jack Ma.

British television and film production is booming, thanks to a number of tax breaks. According to the latest official figures, film and TV programme production was the fastest-growing segment within Britain’s dominant services sector in the third quarter, with 16.4% growth.

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