French banks back AXA’s film studio debut

The investment manager acquired one of France’s largest studios from French property manager Nexity.

A consortium of French banks has provided financing for AXA IM Alts’ debut acquisition in the film studio market.

The Paris-headquartered manager this week announced the acquisition of a 12-hectare land plot in the suburbs of Paris, including the Bry-sur-Marne film and series studios, one of France’s largest studio complexes. AXA plans to refurbish and extend the studios.

The lending consortium comprised domestic banks Caisse D’Epargne Île de France, Banque Palatine, and La Banque Postale.

AXA’s total investment will be around €150 million, which includes the purchase price and upgrades to the property. The purchase price was not disclosed but it is understood the consortium of banks provided leverage of around 30-40 percent loan-to-value.

Bry-sur-Marne studios currently provides 60,277 square feet of studio space across eight stages, in addition to extensive production accommodation of 215,000 square feet comprising workshops, offices, assembling sets and costume and artist dressing rooms.

“This was a rare opportunity to acquire one of the largest studios in France, close to Paris’ city centre, with good infrastructure and the option to extend the premises to meet rapidly growing demand,” said John O’Driscoll, global co-head of real estate at AXA IM Alts.

The studios will be managed by Guillaume de Menthon, who was the president of Telfrance, one of France’s leading fiction production groups. AXA plans to undertake a significant development programme across the site which will more than double the production capacity and make one of the largest studios in continental Europe.

“The investment also aligns with our purpose to deliver long-term value to clients; consolidated sites such as Bry-sur-Marne, which can house the entire content production ecosystem, are essential in accelerating the decarbonisation of the film industry. We have ambitions to significantly scale our studios real estate platform,” O’Driscoll added.

Emerging asset class

AXA’s expansion into the asset class follows a string of managers moving into the space. In 2016, London based Aermont Capital acquired Pinewood Group, which includes the iconic Pinewood Studios in England’s South Buckinghamshire, for a reported $419 million (€391 million). US managers Blackstone and Hudson Pacific Properties acquired a 91-acre site in Broxbourne, north of London, in a £700 million (€813 million) project to create a new studio in 2021.

Lenders have also demonstrated appetite for the sector. In May 2022, London-based real estate investor Cain International provided a £261.5 million development loan to Shinfield Studios for what will be one of the UK’s largest film and television production facilities, located in Reading.

The loan will support the development of a film and television production campus that will comprise a total of 942,548 square feet, including 18 soundstages across more than 437,000 square feet as well as 192,329 square feet of office accommodation, 265,511 square feet of workshop space, and ancillary space.

Two months later, London investment manager Tristan Capital Partners provided £35.4 million  of senior debt to UK-based property developer, Ziser London, for the refinancing of London North Studios, a film and TV studio with office and ancillary space in North London.