China's Wanda Plans $1.78B Consolidation of Film Assets

Wang Jianlin China Brand Summit GETTY H 2016
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Wanda's U.S. film companies — AMC Entertainment and Legendary Entertainment — aren't included in the proposed deal, which aims to bring all of the conglomerate's domestic Chinese film holdings into one entity.

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin is moving forward with a plan to consolidate the film holdings of his sprawling Dalian Wanda Group conglomerate.

Wanda Film Holding Co., the subsidiary that contains the group's Chinese movie theater businesses, revealed a plan Monday to acquire a 96.8 percent stake in Wanda Media, the company's film production and distribution unit, for $1.78 billion.

Wanda Film, listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, has been suspended from trading since last July pending a restructuring proposal. Upon completion of the transaction, Wanda's film and television production, distribution and exhibition businesses will all be housed under one corporate shingle. The company said it also plans to expand into the development and operation of online games.

The acquisition is now under consideration by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. If the deal goes through, Wanda chairman Wang will hold a 41.75 percent stake in Wanda Film.

Notably, Burbank, Calif.-based Legendary Entertainment, which Wanda acquired for $3.5 billion in 2016, won't be included in the transaction. Wanda attempted to merge Legendary with Wanda's domestic film assets in late 2016, but the deal was rejected by regulators, who said that the loss-making U.S. studio needed to prove that it could turn a profit on its own before being lumped in with the group's Chinese cinema business.

In February, Wanda sold a 13 percent stake in Wanda Film to Jack Ma's Alibaba and a state-backed investment group. The deal, described by Wanda as strategic, was valued at $1.24 billion (7.8 billion yuan).

Wanda also owns a controlling stake in AMC Entertainment, North America's largest cinema circuit, but the U.S. company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and managed separately from the Group's Chinese holdings.