MGM Bid Deadline Passes, But Most Offers Yet To Come

NEW YORK (Reuters) – First-round bids for the debt-ridden MGM studio were due Friday afternoon, but most of the bids are expected to trickle in through the weekend, sources familiar with the matter said.

It was unclear if any bids had come in as of late Friday, and two of the sources said bids could come in as late as Tuesday. Sources said the deadline was considered to be a “soft” one.

“MGM is in the process of receiving indications of interest from potential bidders,” an MGM spokesman said. “Once the company has completed reviewing the initial bids, it will begin the second phase of its strategic review process.”

A dozen companies signed MGM’s confidentiality agreements to take a look at the business, but not all of them will necessarily end up bidding for it, sources have said.

Time Warner Inc (TWX.N), Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF.N) Liberty Media (LINTA.O), AT&T Inc (T.N), and independent studio Summit Entertainment, which owns the Twilight film franchise, are among those that have expressed interest, sources said.

News Corp (NWSA.O) and MGM have been in negotiations over the confidentiality agreement, a source said on Thursday. The company, which owns the Fox film studio, remains interested in MGM but has refused to sign the agreement, finding it too restrictive in its current form, the source said.

First-round offers are expected to come in between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, another of the sources said, well below the $3.7 billion in debt the studio owes.

Private equity firms also signed nondisclosure agreements, two of the sources said. Those firms could be allowed to team up with media companies and make joint bids for the studio in later rounds, one of the sources said.

MGM owns about 4,000 film titles and the popular James Bond and Pink Panther franchises.

The first-round bids are nonbinding — meaning that bidders are not legally bound to follow up on their offer — and are expected to help MGM assess the level of interest among potential buyers, the sources said.

MGM is owned by a group including private equity firms TPG [TPG.UL], Providence Equity Partners, DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group, and media companies Sony Corp (6758.T) and Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O).

It faces debt obligations stemming from its 2005 buyout by this group, plus payments on a $250 million revolving credit facility due in April.

MGM’s lenders have extended a debt forbearance until Jan. 31, which exempts it from interest payments of an undisclosed amount as it tries to develop a long-term turnaround plan.

If the bids come in too low, MGM’s creditors could decide to keep the company and restructure it, possibly filing for a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, some of the sources said.

By Jui Chakravorty and Anupreeta Das
(Additional reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Marguerita Choy)