Bergen Finance lends £9m to back expansion of Welsh film studios
Secured lending newcomer Bergen Finance, founded by Andrew Ward and Adrian Hogan and launched in December 2021, has backed Shadow Holdings, the company behind Dragon TV and Film Studios near Cardiff, which is investing in further expanding its facilities, supported by £9m of secured debt funding in one of Bergen’s first secured lending transactions.
Bergen Finance which is headquartered in London and has offices in Leeds and Manchester, is backed by leading European investor and alternative asset manager Arrow Global. Bergen has set out its stall to lend between £500k and £50m to companies across all sectors. Facilities are secured on real estate, and Bergen is targeting shorter term facilities to help companies achieve their aspirations, by providing flexible facilities with a fast and professional response time.
Having seen the major global streaming companies increasing production of their own content post-Covid, Dragon Studios has experienced rapid growth and identified significant new opportunities as it celebrates millions of pounds of new contracts underway with TV and film production companies in the US.
Forming part of a previous open cast coal mine, the brownfield site was constructed by Dragon International Studios in 2007 and originally comprised four high specification silent sound stages. The business was acquired by Dragon (TV and Film) Studios Wales, headed by director Gethyn Mills, in 2018 and a fifth cutting edge, 30,000 sq ft sound stage and production base was added, along with offices, dressing rooms and workshop space. Immediately outside the stages, there is a four acre gravelled backlot suitable for building exterior sets as well as other building space available on the almost 100 acre site.
Supported by Bergen Finance, the company has refinanced some historic debt and the business lender has also provided additional capital to fund Dragon Studios’ continued expansion. By taking time to understand the business and the sector and recognising the strength of the business and its assets, Bergen was able to provide a highly flexible facility.
Dragon Studios has hosted several high profile projects from Upstairs Downstairs (BBC) to Hollywood studio productions such as Will (TNT), The Bastard Executioner (Fox), Brave New World (NBC Universal) and Ironclad (Mythic International Entertainment).
Adrian Hogan, director at Bergen Finance, comments: “We could see straightaway that Dragon Studios was a solid business – it has strong collateral, an impressive track record of investing in improving its assets, a well-connected and knowledgeable management team and great prospects. We are happy to be able to support its continued growth, enabling it to refinance some debt as well as providing additional capital to fund its rapid building programme.
“We pride ourselves on being responsive to clients’ needs and filling a gap in the lending market for providing larger sums, even if the collateral doesn’t immediately tick the standardised critieria for a lend of this size or the business is in a less mainstream sector. It’s great to see our loan being used to fund the expansion of a successful and fast-growing business like Dragon Studios.”
Tom Guy, director of operations at Dragon Studios, said: “It was refreshing to find a lender who is genuinely flexible and looks at the bigger picture – unlike traditional lenders who were concerned we didn’t ‘fit into a box’, Bergen were keen to learn about our strategic vision and CAPEX plans; they recognised the strength of our collateral and were willing to support us. We really appreciated their early engagement and site visit, taking the time to travel to Wales and meet us face to face made a huge impression on us. The fact that they made the effort to meet us in person meant that we felt they understood the site and the project as a whole. The team worked hard to get the deal done quickly to meet our timescales and were pragmatic during the legal process, working around any issues.”