China’s Wanda in Talks for Bid on European Cinema Chains (Report)

11:27 PM PST 04/07/2013 by Clarence Tsui, Scott Roxborough

Having already established a foothold in the U.S. with its purchase of AMC, Dalian Wanda has met with Odeon & UCI and Vue Entertainment to discuss a possible buy-out.

HONG KONG – Dalian Wanda is in talks to add a European cinema chain to its already global film-exhibition network, according to a report.

The group, which purchased AMC Entertainment Holdings in 2012 at the cost of $2.6 billion, is meeting with representatives from Britain's Odeon & UCI Holdings and Vue Entertainment, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

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A Wanda spokesman confirmed the group has held talks to buy a European chain but declined to elaborate, the report added. 

Both Odeon/UCI and Vue Entertainment are known to be up for sale.

Guy Hands' Private equity group Terra Firma is looking to sell Odeon/UCI for around $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion. Odeon controls 230 cinemas across Europe.

Vue is also a likely target. The group is controlled by private equity companies Doughty Hanson and BC Partners and after expanding majorly last year, a quick turn-around sellout would likely appeal to the company. 

Vue Entertainment bought German multiplex group CinemaxX for around $225 million last year, a deal that followed Vue's $32 million buyout of U.K. indie cinema chain Apollo Cinemas. The deals have created a pan-European group, operating 119 theaters with 230,000 seats across the U.K., Ireland, Germany and Denmark.

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Both Odeon/UCI and Vue are strong in Germany and the U.K., two territories that posted record box office performance last year and have been untouched by the economic problems seen in the cinema business in much of Europe.  

Dalian Wanda runs about 1,000 screens in China, in addition to the 5,000 U.S. and Canadian screens the group acquired when buying AMC last year. A move for either Odeon & UCI or Vue would extend the company's global reach considerably. 

Led by chairman Wang Jianlin, Dalian Wanda’s business in China touches on real estate, retail and hotels. In December, the company joined forces with India’s Reliance to explore property development and film exhibition projects.

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