Kinepolis CEO: 'I hope Belgium will not be the last to reopen again'

Kinepolis CEO: ‘I hope Belgium will not be the last to reopen again’

Kinepolis will not pay a dividend after the horror year 2020. The cash remains in your pocket to sweat out the crisis. ‘The buffer of 171 million euros is enough to be maintained for some time to come.’

2020 was for Kinepolis

cry with the cap on – just like for all providers of culture and events. The cinema group hopes to be able to receive film lovers again during the Easter holidays.

Of the 110 Kinepolis complexes in Europe (55), Canada (45) and the US (10), 19 are currently open: three in Luxembourg, Spain and Canada each and the ten US cinemas in Michigan. For the time being, they have to make do with a meager film offering. CEO Eddy Duquenne expects the big premieres to start again in May at the earliest. The new Bond film – which has already been postponed several times – is expected in October.

Private cinema and popcorn at home

Kinepolis has been busy during the corona year. In addition to the construction of five complexes in the Netherlands, France and Canada, it tested the home delivery of snacks in Antwerp as popcorn and nachos – an idea from his Canadian daughter. Successfully, the service is being expanded to Kortrijk, Leuven, Ghent and Liège.

Kinepolis is launching another service at the reopening of the halls: a private film screening for bubbles for up to ten people. In Luxembourg, the Kinepolis Privé 199 euros (for ten people) – that equates to 20 euros per ticket, versus 12 euros for a regular movie ticket.
CEO Eddy Duquenne does not expect the concept to be preserved when the halls can be fully reopened. ‘It is not profitable because of the costs for projection, heating and cleaning.’

The CEO hopes that our country will not be the last to reopen again. ‘We have proven between July and November that we can receive visitors in safe conditions. Our halls are a more controlled environment than other places where people gather to have fun. ‘

In the corona year 2020, the number of visitors was hit hard by the repeated closures: from 40 million in the peak year 2019 to 12 million. ‘007’ and other blockbusters should have helped Kinepolis reach a record number of 45 million visitors last year.

A damned virus decided otherwise. The global closures decimated sales and caused the result to plunge sharply into the red. The cash machine that is Kinepolis came to a complete standstill: the free cash flow went from 90 million to -56 million euros.

Given the blood-red figures, the cinema group decided not to pay a dividend for the second year in a row. Precorona has paid Kinepolis gross about 0.90 euros per share in recent years.

The absence of a dividend is a major loss for the founder family Bert, which owns more than 46 percent of the shares. While the corona crisis – due to the fall in the share price and the cancellation of the dividend for 2019 – already halved the family’s assets to 370 million euros.

Costs cut in half

Over the past year, CEO Duquenne paid even more attention to the little ones. Operating costs were more than halved from EUR 57 million to EUR 22 million. It helped to significantly reduce the monthly cash burn to 5.8 million euros, while 90 percent of the 4,600 employees at home were in temporary unemployment.

Kinepolis entered the crisis with EUR 197 million in cash and available credit lines. Last year, 100 million of this was used, of which 40 million for new complexes and 25 million to (continue to) pay the suppliers and the Canadian ‘landlords’ (working capital). ‘We will recover those 25 million when the halls open again. So we actually only burned 32 million euros in cash last year, ‘says Duquenne.

We can say with certainty that our company will survive this crisis.

Eddy Duquenne

CEO of Kinepolis

Under the motto ‘prepare for the worst, and hope for the best’, the CEO has boosted his cash buffer to 171 million euros with an extra loan of 80 million euros. ‘That is enough to last for quite some time. We can say with certainty that we will get through this crisis. ‘ Net financial debts increased from EUR 417 million to EUR 513 million last year, due to new construction investments and negative working capital.

The CEO does not provide forecasts, the picture is much too cloudy for that. However, he is already looking to 2022 to launch new products and increase efficiency with measures that come from the hat of the staff. ‘I am glad that – unlike many other companies – we are so strong in our shoes that we can already think about 2022, instead of how we will pay wages and costs in 2021.’

Three questions for CEO Eddy Duquenne

The focus is on the reopening of the halls. Shouldn’t we expect takeovers this year?
‘We are regularly contacted for opportunities of various sizes. It is difficult to respond to this in the current circumstances. There are too many unknown factors: when can the halls reopen, how much cash do you need to keep the complex alive until then? Yet we have already viewed and visited many groups in the past. There is nothing concrete now, but I do not rule out anything. ‘

Many operators are in bad shape. A curse or a blessing?
‘I expect a new dynamic with more buying opportunities. I know many owners who were waiting to sell at an exceptional price after an exceptional year. It was an exceptional year, but in a negative sense. ‘
Private equity players are eager to get into it. They have already contacted us to possibly make a deal together. We prefer to do acquisitions autonomously, but never say never. ‘

In Belgium you can build new complexes again from August.
“Given the circumstances, it’s not a top priority. Do not expect a big bang anyway, the coverage in our country is already quite good. It also takes years before you get a permit. Building in Europe is a procession from Echternach. ‘

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