World’s second largest cinema chain to exit bankruptcy

Cineworld is to exit bankruptcy in July, the world’s second largest cinema operator announced on Thursday.

The British chain, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, filed for bankruptcy in the US last year as it was weighed down by expansive debt and reported weak audience numbers as it emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the bankruptcy arrangement, the cinemas in the chain operated as normal and last month Cineworld ended plans to sell its UK, US and Ireland businesses, though efforts to auction operations elsewhere continue.

Now, most of its lenders have agreed to a debt restructuring plan and Cineworld said it expects to emerge from bankruptcy in two months. The company had debts worth roughly $5bn.

Its restructuring plan received the support of lenders holding roughly 99% of its legacy debt arrangements and at least 69% of its outstanding indebtedness.

Earlier this month, the company received US bankruptcy court approval to raise $2.26bn in its bid to exit the arrangement after a settlement was reached with a minority of lenders that had opposed parts of the financing.

Final court approval of the bankruptcy restructuring is scheduled for 12 June.

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There are about 750 Cineworld sites worldwide in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Cineworld also owns the UK Picturehouse and US Regal Cinema chains.

A buyer had been sought earlier this year but no acceptable offers were found.

Sky News reported that rival operator Vue had lined up capital to support a takeover.

Shares have fallen nearly 99% in the past five years, as Cineworld grappled with the double blow of growing streaming services and the COVID-19 pandemic closing cinemas under lockdown rules.

Under the restructuring plan, shareholders will be wiped out.

This morning the share price was down nearly 10%.

Were it not for AMC Entertainment, Cineworld would be the world’s biggest cinema operator.