Looking to build on four years of impressive growth since its 2003 launch, Munich, Germany-based entertainment and licensing company m4e made an IPO on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange on July 19. And according to CEO Hans Ulrich Stoef, the bulk of the US$7.2 million raised in the first round is earmarked for kids entertainment acquisitions and co-productions.
While m4e, which marked a profit of US$2.1 million in 2006, divides its efforts between entertainment (including content distribution and third-party licensing and merchandising), sports and brand licensing, Stoef’s plan calls for an aggressive expansion on the kids property front. He’s aiming to invest in one co-production and make two acquisitions via presales before the year’s out to bolster a portfolio that includes German-speaking territory rights to Nerd Corps’ Storm Hawks and upcoming boys actioner Huntik from Rainbow/Big Bocca, as well as third-party agency work for Marvel and Nelvana.
For 2008, m4e intends to get involved in a minimum of two co-productions and snap up rights to two or three new kids properties. As for what’s on the shopping list, Stoef is looking for more boys action fare and also for an adventure-driven girls property. The company will chip in as much as 40% on a co-pro, and Stoef stresses 100% financing is not part of m4e’s current or future business model. ‘Not many companies have complete international distribution,’ he says. ‘We like to rely on our co-pro partners’ strengths in their own markets.’
That said, m4e is looking to get involved during the development stage of the properties in which it invests. ‘We try to help our partners make [the series] merchandisable in all markets,’ says Stoef.
Broadening the company’s territory coverage is also part of the grand scheme. Stoef says m4e is planning to make inroads into the European licensing market beyond Germany, focusing in particular on Italy, Spain, France and the UK. To that end, he anticipates establishing m4e executives on the ground in France and the UK within the next 12 to 16 months.
As for its existing properties, Stoef says m4e’s next big pushes will involve establishing Storm Hawks and Huntik in the German market. Both series have landed spots on RTL 2, and licensing and merchandising efforts should start picking up steam in spring 2008.