Alliance Films hits the auction block

Film Title:  HAYWIRE

We may be about to find out the dollar value of the movie vaults of Canada’s biggest indie film distributor, now that Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and minority investor Investissement Quebec have put Alliance Films in play.

Alliance Films isn’t commenting on a possible sale of the company, beyond an initial report in the Financial Times newspaper on Monday.

But a statement issued Tuesday from Investissement Québec confirmed the investment arm of the Quebec provincial government and Goldman Sachs are shopping Canada’s largest indie film distributor, via the Bank of Montreal.

“The core areas of investment for the new Invest Quebec… will be principally in natural resources projects in venture capital and in investments in enterprises involved in the design, manufacturing and marketing of advanced materials and new technologies,” the statement issued Tuesday read.

“Therefore, our investment in Alliance no longer fits our new strategy. In concert with Goldman Sachs, we decided to put Alliance up for sale at the appropriate time,” it read.

Investissement Quebec, which owns a one-third stake in Alliance Films, reordering its investment priorities follows its rebranding into a new entity out of the merger of the Société Générale de financement du Québec and the former Invest Quebec.

Goldman Sachs is unloading its two-thirds stake in the media rights’ distributor and producer.

Executives at Alliance Films, which include CEO Victor Loewy and president Charles Layton, were unavailable for comment.

Any potential sale of Alliance Films follows rival Entertainment One also becoming the subject of a possible sales process, this time stick-handled by J.P.Morgan and Credit Suisse.

Besides Alliance Films’ valuable library of around 11,000 film titles, the Canadian distributor has lucrative output deals in Canada with Relativity Media, Focus Features, Lionsgate Entertainment and others. (Pictured, Relativity Media’s Haywire, distributed in Canada by Alliance.)

The Montreal-based company has runs distribution operations in Britain and Spain.

Goldman Sachs first acquired Alliance Films in 2007 as part of a wider $2.3 million deal for then Alliance Atlantis Communications.

Then Société Générale de financement du Québec (SGF) was brought on board as a minority partner so Goldman Sachs could stay within the bounds of Canadian foreign ownership restrictions.

The investment by SGF in Alliance Films was seen at the time as a vote of confidence by the Quebec provincial government in its local film production and distribution sector.

Goldman Sachs looking to cash out of Alliance Films is not seen as a surprise as major equity players tend to have a three- to five-year horizon for corporate investments.

The U.S. investment bank two years ago cashed out of 13 Canadian cable channels that it owned and operated along with the former Canwest Global Communications Corp. by selling them on to Shaw Communications.

Rival Entertainment One similarly has had significant financial backing from British equity player Marwyn Investment Management since 2007.

The possible sale of Alliance Films and Entertainment One also comes amid renewed interest in private equity players in major entertainment assets.

North American film libraries like those that belong to Summit Entertainment and Miramax have suddenly drawn investment interest as Hollywood attempts to value cash flow and profits may come from new distribution platforms like digital VOD, even as sales of DVDs continue to decline.