Debt-laden Cineworld stares at possible bankruptcy

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Cineworld, the world’s second-largest cinema operator, is staring at a possible bankruptcy filing as it struggles to cut debts that soared during the pandemic, it warned on Monday.

The owner of Regal cinemas in the United States, which had $8.9 billion of net debt at the end of 2021, said last week a lack of blockbusters was keeping movie-goers away and impacting its cash flows.

The UK-based company, which is also still reeling from the failed takeover of a Canadian rival, had a market value of just 56 million pounds ($66 million) at Friday’s close.

It had already said it was looking at ways to potentially restructure its balance sheet and said on Monday one option was a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in the United States.

Shares of the London-listed company plunged to a record low on Friday after the Wall Street Journal first reported the potential move.

The company said it was in talks with many of its major stakeholders, including lenders and legal and financial advisers, and reiterated any deleveraging transaction would lead to a very significant dilution of existing equity interests.

Having survived the pandemic, a near-term shortage of big-budget films and the popularity of online streaming are threatening its recovery. AMC Entertainment also flagged a tough third quarter due to a slim film slate.

Cineworld, which two years ago abandoned a plan to take over rival Cineplex, is also in the midst of a legal dispute with the Canadian company, which has sought $946 million in damages for walking away from the deal.

Over the years, Cineworld has expanded globally via acquisitions, including its $3.6 billion purchase of Regal Entertainment in 2017.

The company has payment obligations to disgruntled former shareholders of Regal, further straining its finances.
Cineworld’s shares were volatile in early deals, trading at about 4.3 pence. That compares with a peak of more than 310 pence in 2017.