UPDATE 1-Doughty Hanson sells Vue cinema chain for $1.5 bln
* Vue bought by OMERS Private Equity, Alberta Investment
* Comes ahead of expected sale, IPO of rival Odeon & UCI
* 3D helps cinema ticket sales rise despite weak economy
By Tommy Wilkes and Chris Vellacott
LONDON, June 10 (Reuters) - Private equity group Doughty Hanson has sold cinema operator Vue Entertainment to two Canadian investors for 935 million pounds ($1.5 billion), cashing in on an industry where new technologies like 3D movies have helped it to thrive in recession.
The sale, to OMERS Private Equity and Alberta Investment Management Corporation, will more than double Doughty's original investment and is expected to close by late July, Doughty said in a statement on Monday.
The buyout firm paid 450 million pounds to buy Vue in December 2010, and then embarked on an expansion drive beyond the chain's UK home market, including acquisitions of rivals in Britain, Germany and Poland.
Cinema ticket sales have remained strong in recent years, despite the recession sapping consumer spending power, with big box office hits such as James Bond film "Skyfall" and Batman flick "The Dark Knight Rises" boosting sales last year.
This, combined with a shift to new digital technologies, has helped cinema operators to improve their profit margins. Continued...