May 26, 2020 / 8:17 PM / a month ago

Canada's Quebec provides $200 mln aid to hard-hit Cirque du Soleil

MONTREAL, May 26 (Reuters) - Cirque du Soleil, its spotlight dimmed by the coronavirus pandemic, will receive $200 million in aid from Canada’s Quebec province, an official said on Tuesday, as part of broader efforts to revive and keep the hard-hit international entertainment group based in Montreal.

Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said the province has an agreement in principle that would give it the option to buy a majority stake in Cirque if shareholders TPG and Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd decide to pull out.

The heavily indebted Cirque was exploring bankruptcy protection in March and laid off almost all of its staff after social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic forced it to cancel shows.

“The arrangement is that when the following shareholders, namely Fosun, the Chinese partner and TPG want to sell, we want the option to buy,” Fitzgibbon told reporters in Quebec City.

“Of course at that point we’ll figure out if someone else wants to manage it. It’s not the intent of the Minister of Economy to manage the Cirque du Soleil, I can assure you of that. At the same time, I want the control on who’s going to buy. Because if you don’t have that clause, TPG or whoever else could sell to whomever.”

On Sunday, Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte told a French language TV network that he and a group of investors want to buy back into the circus company.

Cirque, which started as a ragtag group of street performers in Canada and grew into a global circus and entertainment colossus, sold a majority stake to the U.S. private equity fund TPG and its Chinese partner in 2015 in a $1.5 billion deal. (Reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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