South Pacific Pictures will keep NZ focus

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 10:50 10/04/2013

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South Pacific Pictures will continue to focus on telling New Zealand stories despite its transfer to overseas ownership, says veteran producer John Barnett.

He has sold his minority stake in the business to the United Kingdom's largest independent production company All3Media, but will remain as its chairman.

Barnett had been chief executive of the film and television production company for more than 20 years until handing the reins to former TV3 head of programming Kelly Martin last year.

He has overseen the creation, development and syndication of shows such as Shortland Street and Outrageous Fortune, and feature films including Whale Rider, Sione's Wedding and upcoming release White Lies.

South Pacific Pictures (SPP) follows fellow Kiwi production companies Screentime and EyeWorks Touchdown - the latter formerly owned by local interests including Julie Christie - into foreign ownership.

Barnett led a management buy-out of SPP from Television New Zealand in 1998 and British-based All3Media bought into it in 2003 to increase the international profile of its shows.

SPP's huge hit Outrageous Fortune found favour with audiences in Australia, the UK and Europe, but an adapted version for American audiences flopped.

"We've made our reputation from telling New Zealand stories to New Zealanders and to world audiences. That is where our future lies," said Barnett, who is attending a trade show in France.

"All3Media want to support South Pacific Pictures to build on their success and increasing their shareholding is a testament to this."

Barnett said SPP's management was focused on growth and opportunities which they "can clearly see".

He said All3Media's "federal model" which allowed individual companies to run independently and with creative freedom, but supported by the parent company's "muscle", had been a proven success overseas.

All3Media CEO Farah Ramzan Golant said SPP was "one of the jewels in All3Media's crown" which included 20 other production companies across Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and the United States.

Barnett said SPP had grown considerably since All3Media got involved to promote growth in sales of programmes around the world.

The SPP Group made a $2.8 million net profit on revenue of $50.8m for the year to the end of August 2012, down slightly from the previous year due mostly to an impaired debt of nearly $1m to an Australian related-party production company.

In 2004 the company reported a surplus of just $262,000 on revenue of $25.6m.

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Details of the share sale were being kept confidential.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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