China's Wanda to Announce "Major Deal" This Week, Says Chairman Wang

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Wang Jianlin

The billionaire business leader's remarks have sparked speculation that Wanda could be the minority buyer of Paramount Viacom is courting.

Dalian Wanda Group, the Chinese conglomerate that recently acquired Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion, is planning to announce another "major deal" on Friday, the company's billionaire chairman Wang Jianlin said.

The Chinese exec dropped hints of an impending acquisition during an address at Oxford University on Tuesday, Bloomberg reports. He offered no further details other than that the deal would take place outside of the U.K. Wang also said Wanda is zeroing in on a second "comprehensive" project in the U.K. entertainment sector that would result in 10,000 jobs.

The Chinese tycoon's comments, coming on the same day that Viacom revealed it is actively seeking a minority investor in Paramount, have fueled speculation that Wanda is poised to make another big Hollywood buy.

On Wednesday, Wanda's movie theater chain subsidiary, Wanda Cinema Line Co., suspended trading in Shenzhen pending the announcement of an acquisition.

In January, Wanda finalized its acquisition of Thomas Tull's Legendary Entertainment. The deal marked the first time that a movie studio capable of producing big-budget global blockbusters — Legendary has been involved in such hits as Godzilla, Inception, Jurassic World and Pacific Rim — has come under Chinese ownership. At its year-end meeting, Wanda said it plans to make five major acquisitions in 2016, at least three of which will be outside China.

Wang, one of China's richest individuals with an estimated fortune of $32.7 billion, has expressed interest in buying a major Hollywood studio on numerous occasions in the past. He previously held discussions with both Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Lionsgate, but neither of the negotiations came to fruition.

Wanda has been on a buying spree for at least the past year, as it looks to offset a slowdown in its core commercial real estate business by diversifying at home and abroad. Last month the company signed a memorandum of understanding to build a $10 billion industrial park in India.

Wanda's bold entry into international entertainment began in August 2012, when it spent $2.6 billion to acquire AMC Entertainment, North America's second-largest cinema chain. Last year, Wanda paid more than $600 million for Hoyts, Australia’s second-largest multiplex group. The conglomerate also has been investing aggressively in Chinese movies, as well as the occasional Hollywood project. It was the primary financier of 2015 indie boxing pic Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and it is building what it says will be the world's largest movie production facility, an $8.2 billion studio complex in the Chinese port city of Qingdao.

Wang, who began his career as a regimental commander in the People's Liberation Army, has built a reputation for running Wanda with a high degree of discipline. Insiders point out that he has a track record of delivering on the plans he announces publicly.  

A spokesperson for Wanda declined to comment. 

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