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Theres no happy ending in sight for the cinema business. embattled for months by the fallout of the coronavirus, cinema chains such as amc and cinemark are staring deep into the abyss of bankruptcy and their hope of being saved by hollywood studios is all but gone.
In the post-lockdown landscape, cinema operators are by now used to conciliatory calls from movie makers, revoking yet another scheduled in-theatre debut. the delays of would-be billion-dollar box office machines like marvels black widow and the latest instalments of wonder woman and batman were devastating, but to be expected.
The latest james bond flick no time to die was supposed to be different. as recently as wednesday last week, the studio behind the franchise, mgm, had promised cinemas that a worldwide release would go ahead in november. two days later it caved.
Once again, cinemas were left high and dry.
The postponement was a body blow to the industry, said tim richards, chief of cinema company vue, adding: i genuinely dont think a lot of cinema operators will get through this.
Hollywood studios have long depended on cinemas to make a return on their multimillion-dollar investments, which led some wishful thinking movie theatre executives to believe that ultimately the big film producers would have come to their rescue.
But the likes of walt disney, comcasts universal studios or at&ts warner bros are in no position to play superheroes. they face a similarly bleak future, scrambling under the weight of costly pre-pandemic productions with nowhere to go except the streaming stratosphere.
The studios are better off letting the cinemas go bankrupt and re-emerging as healthier companies without any debt later, a person close to universal told the fts anna nicolaou and dds james fontanella-khan as they reported on the sector this week.
The rift between cinemas and studios will surely grow deeper as consumers already rapidly changing tastes accelerate in the post-covid era. some studios have received offers from streamers for more than three times what had been laid on the table before the pandemic.
All this is bad news for equity and debt investors in cinemas such as us private equity group silver lake. the historically tech-focused group led by egon durban recently cut a fresh deal with amc to keep it afloat. now it risks losing most of its investment debt rating agency s&p global expects amc to run out of cash in six months.
Team dd is watching, from the safety of our couches at least for now, for the industrys next plot twist.
Much has been made of how easy it is to do a mega-deal in the age of coronavirus.
Project pink, the merger that brought together telefonicas o2 and liberty globals virgin media, was completed using webex, but much of the wooing was done in-person ahead of the lockdown.
Nvidias $40bn acquisition of arm from softbank did not have the luxury of a pre-lockdown courting session and had to be done virtually according to simon segars (pictured), the long-term boss of the uk semiconductor designer.
He said it was remarkable to think that such a deal could be completed over video calls, but argued that it wouldnt have been possible without existing close relationships within the semiconductor industry.
You can only do that sort of thing if you know each other well, he said, adding that no one involved struggled with the technology during due diligence. just as well given both nvidia and arm are at the sharp end of technological development.
The latest advancements in chip technology including a project called triffid after the man-eating plants from british sci-fi history aimed at lowering the power consumption of sensors used by logistics companies to transport food were on display, but it was the sale of arm that took centre stage during a virtual fireside chat with segars and jensen huang (depicted below), nvidias chief executive.
Segars was clear that itll take a long time before the deal is consummated with a tough job ahead getting clearance from chinese antitrust regulators in particular, given the geopolitical backdrop.
With the prospect of more engineers being hired and a 40m supercomputer being established in cambridge, he was more positive on the prospects for uk technology if the nvidia deal is allowed. whats not to like? he said.
Time will tell if everyone agrees.
Dd readers will no doubt by now be familiar with greensill capital, the softbank-backed company that says it is making finance fairer and employs former uk prime minister david cameron as an adviser.
One of greensills most important clients is sanjeev gupta (pictured below), the british industrialist who has built a conglomerate in everything from metals to banking through a breakneck run of acquisitions.
The privately held finance group has provided much of the firepower underpinning this rise, through billions of pounds of complicated financing linked to invoices.
Gupta has a close relationship with lex greensill, the billionaire australian financier who founded his eponymous company less than a decade ago. the metals magnate briefly held an equity stake in greensill capital in 2016, long before big venture capital investors such as the softbank vision fund and general atlantic had invested in the finance group.
This history is all essential context to the fts latest scoop: greensill capital has provided tens of millions of pounds of uk government-guaranteed loans to two companies associated with mr gupta that employ just 11 people.
Get the full story from the fts michael pooler and dds rob smith here.
A tale of two supply chains washingtons intensifying trade war with beijing and economic fallout from the pandemic have spliced chinas massive global manufacturing industry as more companies are pressured to rethink their operations in the region. (ft)
Good publicity lvmh boss bernard arnault is expanding his empire to include an unexpected addition a 5 per cent stake in the struggling french conglomerate lagardre. the groups media assets could help grant him the best luxury money can buy: political influence. (bloomberg)
Holding grudges longtime ant group investors await a massive payday come the companys dually-listed initial public offering. but others may have missed their chance at the windfall thanks to previous investments in alibabas competitors, shedding light on the potentially problematic factionalism of chinas tech scene. (ft)
Us explores curbs on ant group, tencent payment systems (bbg)
Disney urged to axe dividend and double streaming budget (ft)
Quartz is put on the block just two years after sale (wall street journal)
World economic forum drops davos as venue for 2021 meeting (ft)
Google given sceptical reception in supreme court against oracle (ft)
Amazon sends legal notice to india's future group over reliance deal (reuters)
Lex letter from seoul: huawei and the new way (lex)
Saudi wealth fund explores investing in grocer lulu (bbg)
Silicon valley start-up launches nespresso machine for whisky (ft)
Us yield curve steepens on possibility of blue wave election (ft)