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The Cirque de Soleil big top stands empty in the Old Port in Montreal on May 13, 2020.

Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

Quebec is in talks with potential investors in the Cirque du Soleil, the province’s Economy and Innovation Minister confirmed Friday.

Pierre Fitzgibbon told a legislative committee being conducted over the internet that a process is under way to consider options for the cash-strapped circus troupe and that various parties are involved, including the government.

“The government is in discussions with people who want to relaunch the Cirque du Soleil,” the minister said in response to questions about Quebec’s intentions.

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“We will get involved to the extent that the private sector needs our support. … We’ll do it in the right way, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll be at the table when the game starts to be played.”

Cirque has seen its revenue drop to nearly zero overnight as its live shows were cancelled around the world under government orders prohibiting public gatherings, forcing it to lay off some 4,700 employees. The privately held company is now working toward a recapitalization that would satisfy creditors, who are owed US$1-billion.

‘Time is of the essence,’ Péladeau says as he reaffirms Quebecor’s interest in Cirque troupe

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté weighs jumping into fight for troupe

Cirque has hired National Bank of Canada and U.S. investment bank Greenhill & Co. to advise its board of directors on either selling the company or negotiating a significant cash injection from its existing owners, according to sources involved in the negotiations. The two investment banks have set a June 8 deadline for initial bids for the Cirque. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the names of the sources because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Existing shareholders TPG Capital LP, Fosun Capital Group and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec are aiming to stay invested. But they’re also open to an equity investment from Quebec, said another source familiar with the situation.

Cirque is a company that is central to Quebec’s creative media and performance industry, and the government’s aim is to get it back operating as quickly as possible, Mr. Fitzgibbon told the legislative committee members. It’s also imperative that the headquarters stay in the province, he said.

The minister declined to reveal any details about the discussions taking place. When asked how far Quebec is prepared to go in helping Cirque, he said the scope of intervention will match the needs of the company and the “complementarity” that’s achievable with other groups involved in the revival effort.

“There are certain risks that we will need to take for companies that are important for our economic development,” the minister said. “But I’m very conscious of the fact that this is the public’s money that is being invested.”

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