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Buyout firms in final act of Stage Entertainment bid battle, say sources – Reuters

(Reuters) – Dutch theatre group Stage Entertainment expects final bids for the majority of its theatre business at the end of March, with buyout funds CVC Capital Partners [CVC.UL] and Providence Equity Partners seen as the only remaining contenders, three sources familiar with the matter said.

The Amsterdam-based company, which is controlled by Dutch media tycoon Joop van den Ende, could be valued at about 400 million euros ($425 million), the sources said.

Van den Ende co-founded Endemol, the firm behind hit reality-TV show “Big Brother”, in 1993 and then transferred all of its live entertainment activities into Stage Entertainment.

He wants to retain a minority stake of 20 to 40 percent in the business which has core earnings of around 40 million euros, one of the sources said.

Spokesmen at Stage Entertainment, Providence and CVC declined to comment.

The sale process, led by Dutch banks ING (ING.AS) and ABN Amro [AAHLON.UL], initially aimed to achieve a valuation of 500 million euros, but that came down after bidders including European private equity firm BC Partners [BCPRT.UL] and Chinese investment conglomerate SkyOcean Group Holdings walked away, the source said.

U.S. buyout fund Providence will table its bid via Britain’s biggest theatre company Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) as part of a buy-and-build project to create a theatre powerhouse, two of the sources said.

ATG, which was acquired by Providence for around 350 million pounds ($520 million) in 2013, operates London West End theatres and stages popular shows such as “The Book of Mormon” and “Jersey Boys”.

A tie-up with Stage Entertainment would give it access to an international network of theatres in eight countries including the United States and Russia.

But ATG faces competition from London-based private equity firm CVC which recently sold all of its shares in British theme park operator Merlin Entertainments (MERL.L).

Established in 1998, Stage Entertainment ranks as one of the largest theatre producers in Europe. It owns and licenses productions worldwide and has about 4,000 employees.

Since 2000, Stage Entertainment has partnered with Disney Theatrical Productions to license popular shows such as “The Lion King”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “Aladdin”.

Its network also includes “Mamma Mia!” production company Littlestar, and The Really Useful Group, the firm behind “Cats” and “Jesus Christ Superstar”.