China Film Group gears up for IPO

State-owned studio plans listing on Shanghai bourse

HONG KONG -- China's leading state-owned film studio is gearing up to offer shares on Shanghai's stock market by the end of the year, a senior executive said Friday, in an indication of the local movie industry's rapid expansion.

Auditors have finished sifting through China Film Group's holdings, deputy chief executive Shi Dongming said in a phone interview from the company's headquarters in Beijing.

"All the research and preparation of documents has come to a close," Shi said. "We are just waiting for the right time to list. We hope it will be this year."

He said he didn't know how much the company plans to raise.

While still small compared to the U.S., China's motion picture industry has been doing brisk business in recent years, surging 44% to 6.2 billion Chinese yuan ($908 million) in 2009.

The country added 600 screens, bringing its total to 4,700, including 1,800 digital and nearly 800 3-D screens.

China Film Group is a major player in this booming sector. Last year, the state-owned company accounted for six of the year's 11 top-selling Chinese-made movies, Shi said. Its distribution network covers more than half the country's screens and it owns dozens of multiplexes across the country.

China Film Group isn't the only major studio looking to financial markets to fund their expansion. Huayi Brothers Media Corp. debuted on China's new small companies market in the southern city Shenzhen in October and Beijing Polybona Film Distribution Co. hopes to list on the New York Stock Exchange this year or next, its chief executive said in November.

Despite capitalist-style economic reforms, China still restricts foreign access to its domestic stock markets to certain institutional investors.