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Middle East Broadcaster MBC Floats 10% Stake on Saudi Market

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Saudi-owned MBC Group, the Middle East’s top broadcaster, has announced it is floating a 10% stake on the Riyadh stock exchange seeking to raise up to 831 million riyals ($222 million) in a move to boost growth and help fuel its output of high-end productions.

“Institutional and retail investors will be allowed the opportunity to acquire shares and participate in the long-term growth plans of the company and the Saudi media market,” MBC Group said in a statement on Thursday.

HSBC Saudi Arabia is the lead manager of the IPO that will run Nov. 30-Dec. 6 in tandem with JP Morgan Saudi Arabia and SNB Capital, as financial advisors.

MBC, which was launched in London in 1991, subsequently moved its headquarters to Dubai in 2002 at a time when for religion-related reasons Saudi Arabia had banned moviegoing, and entertainment in general was frowned upon by the country’s conservative leadership.

Then, in December 2017, Saudi lifted its cinema ban and has since made the media and creative industries an important pillar of its plan to diversify its economy.

Last year, MBC opened new headquarters in Riyadh, a move described by MBC Group chairman Waleed bin Ibrahim Al-Ibrahim during the gala opening as a return to “our homeland.”

The Saudi government currently owns a 60% stake in MBC while the rest is held by Al-Ibrahim, who founded the pan-Arab satcaster that has 13 free-to-air TV channels and operates leading premium streamer Shahid VIP.

MBC is now shifting the bulk of its production activities to Saudi where they have more than 80 film and TV titles in various stages of production.

MBC Studios is among producers of Dubai-based Iraqi director Yasir Al-Yasiri’s fantasy “HWJN,” which opens Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival running Nov. 30-Dec. 9 in Jeddah, on the Red Sea’s eastern shore.

High-end Saudi productions in various stages bankrolled by MBC include Hollywood-style tentpole “Desert Warrior,” featuring an all-star international cast led by “Captain America” star Anthony Mackie and directed by Rupert Wyatt (“Planet of the Apes”), and fantasy-adventure “Rise of the Witches,” the biggest TV series ever produced with a homegrown Saudi cast. Both were filmed in NEOM, a sprawling area along the kingdom’s Red Sea coast.

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