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STX Entertainment files for planned IPO in Hong Kong

STX Entertainment files for planned IPO in Hong Kong
Rory Scovel and Amy Schumer in the movie "I Feel Pretty," which was recently released by STX Entertainment. (Mark Schafer / STX Entertainment)

STX Entertainment filed preliminary paperwork for its planned initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Thursday, a move that could further solidify the Burbank-based studio's close ties to the Chinese market.

The young studio behind such movies as "I Feel Pretty," starring Amy Schumer; "Molly's Game" and the "Bad Moms" comedies is expected to raise about $500 million in the IPO, which could happen before the end of the year depending on regulatory approval.

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STX is notable among Hollywood mini-majors for its tight connection to China. The company counts China's Hony Capital and Tencent among its major investors, as well as the Hong Kong telecom conglomerate PCCW. It also has a slate financing partnership with Huayi Brothers Media, which takes an equity stake in some of the company's titles.

The company engages in co-productions with Chinese firms and develops titles with Chinese audiences in mind. "The Foreigner," starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan, opened last year and grossed more than $145 million worldwide, the majority of it in China.

Founded in 2014, STX is also actively involved in TV production as well as digital and virtual reality projects. It employs about 150 people in its L.A. and London offices.

Other major investors include the private equity firm TPG Growth and the TV and broadband company Liberty Global. East West Bank chairman Dominic Ng and producer Gigi Pritzker have also invested in the studio.

STX declined a request for comment. The company noted in its nearly 500-page prospectus to Hong Kong exchange officials that it posted losses for the past three fiscal years, as well as negative cash flow. But the company also saw revenue rise more than 40% in the most recent fiscal quarter.

The studio said in the filing that such losses were typical for a studio of its relative youth. It also attributed the losses to entertainment accounting practices, in which expenses such as marketing and promotion are recorded before revenue.

"We expect the gap between earnings and cash flow to normalize once we reach a 'steady-state' releasing pattern, which we expect to be 12 to 15 model films per year," the company said in the filing.

STX has had a rocky time at the domestic box office, with recent flops including its EuropaCorp releases "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" and "The Circle." The studio's top-grossing film to date is 2016's "Bad Moms," the raunchy comedy that spawned a sequel last year.

The company noted in its filing Thursday that it plans to focus on mid-budget movies, generally those in the $20 million to $80 million range — a category that the major Hollywood studios have largely forsaken in favor of tentpole blockbuster releases.

Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are STX's joint sponsors for the IPO.

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