Cineworld has struck a £2.7 billion deal to buy US chain Regal in a move that will create the second biggest cinema group in the world.
The combined group will have more than 9,500 screens across 10 countries and will see Cineworld enter the lucrative US market, which boasts the world’s biggest box office takings.
Cineworld, which confirmed the takeover talks last week, has agreed to pay $23 a share for Regal, which it will fund largely through a mammoth £1.7 billion investor cash-call.
Regal directors and its biggest shareholder - the Anschutz Corporation - have backed the acquisition, which is classed as a reverse takeover.
Mooky Greidinger, chief executive of Cineworld, said: “Regal is a great business and provides Cineworld with the optimal platform on which we can continue our growth strategy.
“Both companies are strongly committed to bringing a high end cinematic experience to their customers.”
The deal will see the combination of Europe’s second-largest cinema group with the second-largest chain in the US.
It will give the group more scope to compete with industry leader AMC Entertainment, which last year snapped up Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group in Europe.
Amy Miles, chief executive of Regal, said: “The combination of our two great companies, Cineworld’s tremendous success in the UK, as well as other markets they have entered since, and Cineworld’s commitment to maintain a strong presence in the US and Knoxville, provide a global platform positioned for continued growth and innovation.”
But Cineworld shareholders baulked at the plans revealed last week to fund the takeover with a rights issue, sending shares plummeting.
Cineworld has 2,049 screens across 221 sites and also owns the Picturehouse Cinemas chain.
The group has been buoyed this year by blockbusters Dunkirk and Despicable Me 3, as the multiplex chain also opened a string of new sites.
It also anticipates a strong slate of movie releases to help its performance in the coming months, including Paddington 2 and Justice League, and upcoming films Pitch Perfect 3, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.