Private equity firm Rizvi Traverse Management completed its $551 million acquisition of RealD Inc. of Beverly Hills, a maker of 3-D viewing systems for the movie industry.
While that sounds like a big number, the company used to be worth a lot more.
RealD went public in 2010, riding high off the success of the 3-D version of “Avatar.” Shortly after, the company had a market capitalization of nearly $2 billion.
But public enthusiasm for 3-D movies never matched the hype of “Avatar” and the company’s stock price has been heading south ever since.
“They have been successful creating and marketing technology that has a fairly significant share of domestic and international box office,” said Jim Goss, analyst with Barrington Research of Chicago, adding that growth opportunities in the 3-D movie market appear to have topped out. “The problem is once you’ve hit that maturation point it stops growing. They haven’t been able to show a business model that shows growth and excites investors.”
It has been especially challenging for RealD to find new growth areas even as it endures the constant pressure of meeting quarterly expectations, wrote Eric Wold, an analyst at the San Francisco office of West L.A. investment bank B. Riley & Co., in a November report. For instance, RealD’s Luxe 3-D movie theater division, which has 40 locations worldwide, has failed to gain the backing of major U.S. exhibitors and so has failed to grow.
Other 3-D technology expansion plans didn’t catch fire as investors had hoped, said Goss.
It never caught on for home use, he said, “because people don’t want to pay an extra $500 for a TV and to wear glasses while watching.”
Ultimately, the lackluster 3-D film market made RealD’s efforts to shop itself more difficult. Interest from several potential bidders deflated, in part, because of “perceived risks around consumer appetite for 3-D films,” the company wrote in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In the end, it was Rizvi Traverse of Birmingham, Mich., that stepped up to pay $11 a share for RealD, a 4.1 percent premium to the company’s stock at the time the deal was announced in November. RealD rejected a $12-a-share takeover bid by New York investment firm Starboard Value, which owned a 10 percent stake in the company, in 2014. That deal would have represented a 29 percent premium on RealD’s stock at the time.
RealD posted a net loss of $4.3 million, or 8 cents a share, on revenue of $50.4 million for its third fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31.
RealD will now go private as part of Rizvi’s buyout.
“As a private company, RealD will have the flexibility and resources to further invest in our continued cinema leadership and visual technology innovation,” founder Michael Lewis said in a statement after the deal was announced. He will stay on as chief executive officer.
Ultimately, RealD wasn’t a fit for the growth hungry public markets, said Goss.
“As with some other areas like radio or newspapers,” he explained, “it’s been hard to create an investment thesis that’s worked.”
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