China's Wanda Confirms Investment in French Entertainment Complex

Wang Jianlin Dalian Wanda Chairman H

The Legendary Pictures owner is also expected to participate in the bidding for Turkish cinema operator Mars Entertainment.

China’s Dalian Wanda Group made official its investment in a planned French shopping and entertainment complex, dubbed EuropaCity, in an announcement Friday evening Paris time.

Wang Jianlin, president of Dalian Wanda Group, said in a statement, “We have wanted to develop ourselves in France for a while, and particularly in Paris, as I had told the French President during his visit to China last November."

He added, "EuropaCity allows us to finally reach that objective and we are pleased to collaborate with a famous French stakeholder to develop this ambitious and innovative project. For us, it is the most important project outside of China."

Wanda said it reached agreement with partner Immochan to develop EuropaCity together as the largest private project for leisure, retail and entertainment in Europe. Wanda will help finance the project, which is set to open in 2024, and provide expertise in leisure, hotel service and entertainment.

The planned development has a price tag of €2.9 billion ($3.1 billion) for the overall project, to be built outside of Paris, near the Charles de Gaulle airport. Immochan is a European commercial real estate development with expertise in retail complexes.

"This partner's know-how in terms of entertainment and Wang Jianlin's ambition to develop his group on a global scale have convinced us that Wanda could make a substantial contribution to the development of EuropaCity," Immochan president Vianney Mulliez said in his own statement.

The development will be on 200 acres with planned sports and shopping complexes, hotels and public spaces. Wanda’s investment will be directed to construction of an amusement park on the site. Wanda owns a dozen amusement parks in China, as well as the AMC theater chain in North America and the Hoyts theater chain in Australia.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported that Wanda is also planning to bid for Turkish exhibition giant Mars Entertainment. The owners of the country's largest cinema operator recently hired investment banks, with a formal sale process expected to start soon. 

The France deal is the first big European and foreign investment project for Wanda, which also recently announced its $3.5 billion acquisition of Jurassic World and Godzilla studio Legendary Entertainment. Wang said last year that the company expects to announce five big projects this year, at least three of which will be outside China.

The company is also seen as a potential investor in Paramount Pictures as Viacom is looking to sell a minority stake in the studio, with observers seeing international and technology companies as likely deal partners. 

Wanda said it would inject its cash in the French entertainment complex just before public debate on the project is set to open in France on March 15.

EuropaCity will break ground in 2017, with a projected attendance of 30 million visitors a year.