Cineworld leans towards CVA after screening bidders

The owners of Cineworld are leaning towards putting its British operations through a formal restructuring process after holding initial talks about a sale with prospective buyers.

Sky News has learnt that the cinema chain and its advisers at AlixPartners have begun formally exploring a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) - a mechanism widely used by retailers and restaurant chains during the COVID pandemic to close stores and slash rents.

The details of a potential Cineworld CVA are still to be determined, with no visibility yet about any site closures or rent negotiations with landlords.

However, one insider said that an insolvency mechanism such as a CVA was now far more likely than an outright sale of the business.

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Sky News revealed earlier this month that Cineworld had drafted in AlixPartners to consider a sale.

The company trades from more than 100 sites in Britain, including at the Picturehouse chain, and employs thousands of people, although its public relations adviser refused to confirm either figure.

In a statement issued to Sky News earlier in the month, it said: "Like many businesses, we are continually reviewing our UK operations."

Cineworld grew under the leadership of the Greidinger family into a global giant of the industry, acquiring chains including Regal in the US in 2018 and the British company of the same name four years earlier.

Its multibillion dollar debt mountain led it into crisis, though, and forced the company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2022.

It delisted from the London Stock Exchange last August, having seen its share price collapse amid fears for its survival.

Under the deal struck last year, several billions dollars of debt were exchanged for shares, with a significant sum of new money injected into the company by a group of hedge funds and other investors.

Cineworld also operates in central and Eastern Europe, Israel and the US.

Since it emerged from bankruptcy protection, Cineworld has appointed a new leadership team, installing Eduardo Acuna, who ran Mexican cinema chain Cinepolis's operations in the Americas, as its chief executive.

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Eric Foss, a former Pepsi executive, was parachuted in as Cineworld's chairman.

One property industry source previously told Sky News that an attempt by Cineworld to pursue a CVA or other restructuring which compromised landlords was likely to be met with fierce resistance.

Major summer film releases in Britain include Despicable Me 4, A Quiet Place: Part One, and Alien: Romulus.