Recent News Stories

  1. Enlight acquires 25% of Dragon Entertainment
  2. Love Live wins third week in Japan
  3. Kindergarten, Place win Taipei's int'l competition
  4. Hong Sang-soo returns to Locarno
  5. FUNimation takes Attack on Titan for Americas
  6. Hollywood Adventures on top in China
  7. Skip City Festival celebrates local culture
  8. Showbox locks deals on Assassination
  9. Northern Limit Line tops South Korea box office
  10. New York Asian Fest opens with Port of Call
  11. China Lion acquires Huayi trio from IM Global
  12. Zhang Meng begins shoot of family comedy
  13. Remembering a forgotten war
  14. Fruit Chan to preside over Taipei Film Awards
  15. Park Chan-wook's Lady begins Japan shoot
  16. Karlovy Vary celebrates 50th anniversary
  17. Selling a female crime film at Shanghai IFF
  18. SPL2 sets action record in China
  19. Night Watchman wins in Shanghai
  20. Classified File opens second-placed in South Korea
  21. Love Live wins second weekend at Japan box office
  22. SIFF Project's co-production conundrum
  23. Bona announces giant slate in Shanghai
  24. Fox International Channels acquires Enlight 3
  25. IMAX China establishes film fund
  26. Moscow Film Festival opens with Wolf Totem
  27. Idol anime is surprise Japan box office hit
  28. Jurassic World reigns in Greater China
  29. Jurassic World stomps on South Korea
  30. Lee Min-ho joins Bounty Hunters
  31. Shanghai fest opens with barebones ceremony
  32. Koreans cancel Shanghai attendance en masse
  33. Tomorrowland soars at Japan box office
  34. Avengers boosts South Korea box office in May
  35. Uzumasa Limelight wins at Nippon Connection
  36. San Andreas shakes up Greater China box office
  37. Busan's Asian Film Policy Forum postponed
  38. Umizaru author and Fuji TV resolve feud
  39. China Lion acquires Ark of Mr. Chow
  40. Wanda Cinemas acquires Australian cinema operator

Imagi in $130 million Toon Express buy


Imagi in $130 million Toon Express buy

By Patrick Frater

Mon, 21 February 2011, 14:00 PM (HKT)


Corporate News

Imagi International Holdings (意馬國際控股有限公司), the restructured Hong Kong-based animation group, is to use its stock-market listing to buy its way into China.

The company is to pay up to HK$1.05 billion ($130 million) to buy Toon Express Group (動漫火車集團), brand-manager of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf (喜羊羊與灰太狼). Made with rudimentary animation techniques, the The Pleasant Goat concept has been a runaway hit as a TV series, a feature film franchise and even as a stage show.

Imagi will pay an initial HK$814 million ($105 million) for the company and a possible further HK$233 million ($30 million) of earn-out payments dependent on Toon Express' profits over the next two years.

In a statement to the stock market Imagi said that the purchase would broaden its revenue, provide complimentary skills, bring experienced management and allow it to sell its other properties through Toon Express's relationships.

These relationships include two deals with Disney. A deal signed in late 2010 will see the US media giant distribute the series in 52 countries on its Disney Channel and elsewhere. A separate ten-year master licence agreement with Disney, characterised as a prime example of Disney's process of localisation, sees Disney take over management of more than 200 consumer goods licensing arrangements previously signed by Toon Express.

Soh Szu Wei (蘇思偉), Toon Express' boss will be appointed executive director and CEO of the enlarged Imagi.

Toon Express has a ten-year contract with its production and content licence partner CPE. This includes the production of a 220 further TV episodes, at least half of which will be Pleasant Goat, each year. Toon Express and CPE are also committed to producing three more Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf movies over the next five years. Speaking at a press conference in Hong Kong, Soh said that the company needs to "upgrade" the Pleasant Goat movies and that it is now considering producing these in stereoscopic 3-D.

The first movie Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf — The Super Adventure achieved RMB80 million ($12.1 million) at the Chinese box office , which was the highest box office for a locally-produced animation in China at that time. The second, Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf — Desert Trek: The Adventure of the Lost Totem (喜羊羊與灰太狼之虎虎生威), scored RMB128 million ($19.4 million) last year, while the third Moon Castle: The Space Adventure (喜羊羊與灰太狼之兔年頂呱呱3) released last month has already grossed over RMB150 million ($22.7 million).

Other animation properties operated by Toon Express include Happy Family (寶貝女兒好媽媽), Cookie Masters (小宋當家), Planet of 7 Colors (七色戰記) and Legendary Soccer Kid (宋代足球小將).

Imagi's initial down-payment includes HK$330 million ($42.4 million) of cash, which will be funded through the issue of new shares worth HK$360 million ($46.3 million) to a select group of investors. These include Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠), Asia's richest businessman and head of Hutchison, through his Bofanti investment vehicle; IDG, a US-Chinese private equity fund with significant film industry investments; and Mousse Partners, a New York fund manager which has also previously invested in Asian film.

Imagi was set up as an animation studio that combined Hollywood talent and Hong Kong production facilities, but its first two in-house productions TMNT and Astro Boy underperformed. The company completed a major restructuring in May last year and announced a loss of over HK$521 million ($67 million) for the six months to September.

Imagi chairman Francis Leung (梁伯韜) told Film Business Asia that production of the company's two currently unfinished feature film projects Gatchaman and A Cat Tale had been slowed down ahead of the Toon Express deal. Soh said that the group will now assess its film production priorities and that its commitment to making the next three Pleasant Goat films already represents a tight schedule.


Sign up with your email address for our free weekly newsletter: