BREAKING: Amazon will acquire the remaining shares in the pan-European movie rental and streaming service LoveFilm. Terms have not been disclosed but we believe the valuation was around $312 million. Amazon already owned 42 percent of LoveFilm which acquired Amazon’s DVD rental business in 2008.
Amazon has had a large minority shareholding in LoveFilm for some time and this deal has been in the offing for what seems like forever. The talks have been going on since at least September last year, and Lovefilm investors has been looking for an exit since, oh, 2009?
Assuming regulatory approvals are all fine the deal should close in the first quarter of 2011.
In the US, Amazon has a video-on-demand service but now it gets Lovefilm’s presences in the European online video streaming and rental markets of the UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. LoveFilm recently expanded to stream into Sony Playstation 3 and Sony and Samsung TVs, Blu-Ray players and other home theatre devices.
Will it be rebranded? Hard to say but not right now we hazard.
LoveFilm has had a long history of M&A – over 10 mergers and the acquisition of several other on-line DVD rental companies along the way.
In May 2002, Paul Gardner and Graham Bosher launched DVDsOnTap (Online Rentals Limited) operating out of Harlow, Essex. A year later William Reeve and Alex Chesterman launched Screenselect in London, and in the same month Saul Klein launched Video Island, also in London.
In 2003 DVDsOnTap was invested in by Arts Alliance Ventures, a family-owned private equity firm, rebranded to LoveFilm. Mark Livingstone came in as CEO and then merged the business in 2004 with Video Island.ScreenSelect and LoveFilm were big rivals, acquiring smaller outfits along the way until April 2006 when the two merged under Simon Calver.
In February 2008, LoveFilm acquired Amazon’s DVD rental business in the UK and German markets, and in return Amazon became the largest shareholder of LoveFilm.
Here’s the official release:
Amazon to Acquire LOVEFiLM International Limited
LUXEMBOURG CITY and LONDON, January 20, 2011 — Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire the remaining shares in LOVEFiLM International Limited (http://www.LOVEFiLM.com). LOVEFiLM is a leading European subscription entertainment service which combines the benefits of online DVD and games rental-by-post as well as streaming films and TV shows instantly over the internet to PCs, internet enabled TVs and Playstation(R)3. LOVEFiLM operates today in the UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Amazon already has a significant minority shareholding in LOVEFiLM and does not itself operate any similar business in Europe.
“LOVEFiLM has been innovating on behalf of movie rental customers across Europe for many years and with the advent of the LOVEFiLM player, they are further delighting customers by streaming digital movies for their immediate enjoyment,” said Greg Greeley, Amazon’s Vice President of European Retail. “LOVEFiLM and Amazon have enjoyed a strong working relationship since LOVEFiLM acquired Amazon Europe’s DVD rental business in 2008, and we look forward to a productive and innovative future.”
“The deal is a winner for the members who love LOVEFiLM because of its value, choice, convenience and innovation in home entertainment,” said Simon Calver, Chief Executive of LOVEFiLM International. “With Amazon’s unequivocal support we can significantly enhance our members’ experience across Europe.”
The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2011.
Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle, opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth’s Biggest Selection. Amazon.com, Inc. seeks to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices. Amazon.com and other sellers offer millions of unique new, refurbished and used items in categories such as Books; Movies, Music & Games; Digital Downloads; Electronics & Computers; Home & Garden; Toys, Kids & Baby; Grocery; Apparel, Shoes & Jewelry; Health & Beauty; Sports & Outdoors; and Tools, Auto & Industrial. Amazon Web Services provides Amazon’s developer customers with access to in-the-cloud infrastructure services based on Amazon’s own back-end technology platform, which developers can use to enable virtually any type of business. Kindle, Kindle 3G and Kindle DX are the revolutionary portable readers that wirelessly download books, magazines, newspapers, blogs and personal documents to a crisp, high-resolution electronic ink display that looks and reads like real paper. Kindle 3G and Kindle DX utilize the same 3G wireless technology as advanced cell phones, so users never need to hunt for a Wi-Fi hotspot. Kindle is the #1 bestselling product across the millions of items sold on Amazon. Amazon and its affiliates operate websites, including http://www.amazon.com, http://www.amazon.co.uk, http://www.amazon.de, http://www.amazon.co.jp, http://www.amazon.fr, http://www.amazon.ca, http://www.amazon.cn, and http://www.amazon.it. As used herein, “Amazon.com,” “we,” “our” and similar terms include Amazon.com, Inc., and its subsidiaries, unless the context indicates otherwise.
This announcement contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Actual results may differ significantly from management’s expectations. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that include, among others, risks related to competition, management of growth, new products, services and technologies, potential fluctuations in operating results, international expansion, outcomes of legal proceedings and claims, fulfillment center optimization, seasonality, commercial agreements, acquisitions and strategic transactions, foreign exchange rates, system interruption, inventory, government regulation and taxation, payments and fraud. More information about factors that potentially could affect Amazon.com’s financial results is included in Amazon.com’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequent filings.
LOVEFiLM International was formed from the merger of two leading VC backed DVD rental companies in Europe. The first, LOVEFiLM formed in early 2004 when Arts Alliance Media acquired and rebranded DVDs On Tap and later acquired Boxman.se and Digitarian.dk. The second, Video Island – originally formed in 2003 by Redbus Group – backed by Balderton, Index and DFJ Esprit merged with ScreenSelect Ltd (also founded in 2003), and acquired Brafilm.se and Brafilm.no. The 50/50 merger between the two companies in 2006 was followed in 2008 by LOVEFiLM International’s acquisition of Amazon’s UK and German online DVD rental customer base.
What we do
In a little over seven years, LOVEFiLM has become a leading European film subscription service, combining the benefits of DVD rental by post and, more recently, watching movies online via the LOVEFiLM Player (on the PC, the PlayStation(R)3 and streamed direct to TV). Customers choose from a selection of over 70,000 titles available across Blu-ray, DVDs, video games and digital streaming. LOVEFiLM currently has nearly 1.6 million members and operates in the UK, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.
LOVEFiLM has been a pioneer in digital film delivery in the UK since launching the first download to own movie in April 2006. The LOVEFiLM Player launched in March 2010 and offers thousands of digital titles available for members to watch on their TV, PC or PlayStation(R)3. For those on an Unlimited or capped package the service comes at no extra cost. Premium titles are available to everyone on a pay-per-view basis, and a number of titles are available to all site visitors for free with advertising support.
LOVEFiLM is also available through a range of internet-enabled devices – including Sony, Samsung and PS3(TM) – taking LOVEFiLM directly into members’ living rooms through their TV sets.
LOVEFiLM customers have generated 80 million film ratings and written 843,000 member reviews – information which helps LOVEFiLM to promote the most relevant titles for its customers to choose from.
LOVEFiLM offers a range of rental options in each market with free postage and no late fees. In the UK these include GBP4.99 a month allowing members to have one DVD at a time (limit of two per month. Does not include online viewing), GBP5.99 a month for one DVD at a time (limit of three per month plus 2 hours online viewing ), GBP7.99 for two DVDs at a time (limit of four per month plus 4 hours online viewing), GBP9.99 a month for one DVD out at a time (Unlimited DVDs by post and online viewing), GBP12.99 for two at a time (Unlimited DVDs by post and online viewing) and GBP15.99 gives the option for three DVDs at a time (Unlimited DVDs by post and online viewing). Members on an Unlimited package have access to the LOVEFiLM Player at no extra cost.
LOVEFiLM also offers a range of video games rental options in the UK market to support gaming across XBox 360, Xbox, PS3, PS2, Wii and DS. These include GBP5.99 a month for one disc at a time (limit of three per month. Does not include online viewing), GBP9.99 a month for two discs at a time (limit of three per month plus 4 hours online viewing), GBP14.99 a month for two discs at a time (Unlimited discs by post and online viewing) and GBP18.99 for three discs at a time (Unlimited discs by post and online viewing), all with free postage and no late fees.