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China-owned AMC seals deal to buy Carmike Cinemas, becomes largest theater chain in U.S.

Los Angeles Times

Carmike Cinemas shareholders on Tuesday approved a plan to sell the company to AMC Entertainment for $1.2 billion, including debt, making the Chinese-owned theater chain the largest in the country.

Leawood, Kan.-based AMC will pay $33.06 a share for Carmike of Columbus, Ga., meaning the combined company will surpass Regal Entertainment as the nation’s biggest cinema chain.

The shareholder vote comes eight months after AMC first proposed an acquisition of Carmike, the No. 4 circuit in North America. AMC had to boost its offer to keep the closely watched deal from falling apart after some shareholders complained that the original price of $30 a share offered in March was too low.

AMC sweetened the pre-share price of the cash and stock pact by 10 percent. Carmike had delayed shareholder votes to approve the acquisition, raising questions about whether the purchase would close. Both companies’ boards had already given the OK. The deal is subject to regulatory approval.

Wall Street didn’t bat an eye. Carmike’s shares were unchanged at $34.05 in midday trading. AMC’s rose 10 cents, or .3 percent to $34.60 a share.

By buying Carmike, with 271 locations, AMC would expand its reach to easily more than 600 theaters. Regal Entertainment Group has 565 locations.

AMC and its Chinese parent company, Dalian Wanda Group, which already operates China’s largest theater chain, have been on a buying spree. In July, AMC announced plans to acquire London-based Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group from a private-equity firm to stoke its overseas operations.

Wanda Group, the real estate and media giant run by billionaire Wang Jianlin, bought AMC in 2012 for $2.6 billion, creating the world’s largest cinema company.

This year, Wanda bought “Dark Knight” producer Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion and followed up this month by paying $1 billion for Dick Clark Productions, the company behind the Golden Globe Awards.

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