China's Wanda in Deal Talks With Lionsgate, MGM, Chairman Says
"Many people come knock at my door but Wanda is only interested in the big players and we want control," says Wang Jianlin
China's Dalian Wanda Group, which controls AMC Entertainment, the second-largest U.S. film exhibitor, has held talks to acquire a stake, preferably a controlling stake, in Lionsgate, billionaire chairman Wang Jianlin told Bloomberg News.
The Beijing-based company is interested in buying control of the studio, but its owners have only been willing to sell a minority stake, Wang said in an interview with the news wire. It wasn't immediately clear if the company could agree to acquire a minority stake in a first step.
Talks are at an early stage and may not lead to a deal, Bloomberg quoted the chairman as saying. He also told Bloomberg that Wanda has held discussions about investing in MGM. Lionsgate declined to comment, and MGM couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Lionsgate's stock rose more than 5 percent before the market open on Monday. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Chinese conglomerate Fosun have previously been reported as having looked at acquiring a stake in Lionsgate.
"Many people come knock at my door but Wanda is only interested in the big players and we want control," Bloomberg quoted Wang as saying.
He added that Wanda would also consider acquisitions of film studios that are larger than Lionsgate if any came up for sale, Bloomberg quoted the chairman as saying. "China's movie industry is booming," he said. "Buying a well-known U.S. company will help our distribution overseas."
Wanda has made no secret of its ambitions in the United States after the initial signal that came with the purchase in 2012 of AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion.
In August, the company said it would spend $1.2 billion to develop its Hollywood presence after it won a bid for the Robinsons May department store site at 9900 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, for the HQ of its U.S. entertainment business. Wang said his aim was "to make China's Wanda a world-known brand like Walmart, IBM and Google."
In November, Wang met with Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, and the group's cinema unit, Wanda Cinema Line, said over the weekend that it had won approval from regulators for an IPO, which it hopes will raise up to $325.6 million. Wanda Cinema plans to use the bulk of its IPO proceeds to build theaters, as well as supplement cash flow. Wanda currently has 150 movie theaters with 1,315 screens in more than 80 Chinese cities.
Wang is also gearing up an IPO for his real estate unit, Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties. Both listings are expected to be completed before the end of the year.
Wanda is investing $163.4 million to bring movie and television production to a planned multi-billion-dollar studio project it has been developing in the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao.