A new content partnership has been forged between Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris and Franco-Tunisian financier Tarak Ben Ammar to produce and distribute TV shows and movies for international and Arab audiences.
The collaboration, which has an initial 100 million euro (US$129 million) in capital, comes after the acquisition by Ben Ammar of Sawiris' Egyptian television network ONTV in December. Ammar already controls satellite broadcaster Nessma TV in Tunisia.
As part of the deal, Sawiris will acquire 30% of Ben Ammar's Milan-based Quinta Communications Italy – which counts as assets Sportitalia TV, distributor Eagle Pictures, and the digital channels on which Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset Premium broadcasts.
The joint project will also seek to buy up media companies in the future, said a statement released at the start of the Cannes Film Festival.
The first project the two will embark on is the Arabic thriller Beretta, based in Cairo and written and directed by Qatari filmmaker Sophia Al-Maria. The action film will boast a rare Arabic female lead in the mould of the heroines in Luc Besson's Nikita or Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, a statement said.
"Beretta is exactly the kind of content we want to produce moving forward," said Ben Ammar. "We have the opportunity to make an iconic Arab feature film, which will also be relevant and entertaining to audiences across the world. It's edgy, hip, universal and addresses an important issue in an original way. It also pleases me to support a wonderful creative voice from the Arab world in Sophia."
Telecoms billionaire Sawiris added: "I have always loved cinema and television. With Tarak I have finally found a partner with whom to realise this dream."