Wanda Film Eyes Further Acquisitions, Reports Higher First-Half Profit

Wang Jianlin Dalian Wanda Chairman H

The Chinese conglomerate, headed by billionaire Wang Jianlin, sparked speculation in industry circles this week as trading in its film arm's stock was suspended pending the acquisition of "film-related assets."

Despite lackluster growth at the Chinese box office, Beijing-based conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group reported a solid uptick in operating income at its film unit during the first half of 2017.

Wanda Film Holding Co., formerly known as Wanda Cinema Line, reported operating income of 6.65 billion yuan ($980.1 million) from January to June, an increase of 16 percent over the year-ago period.

Wanda Film contains Wanda Group's Chinese movie theater circuit and other film-related entities, such as film merchandising company Mtime, which the conglomerate acquired for $350 million last year. U.S.-based Legendary Entertainment and several of Wanda's local Chinese movie businesses are not housed within the unit, however — although Wanda has stated that it hopes to eventually consolidate its film assets into the publicly traded entity.   

A brief earnings report released by the company to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange on Monday stated that Wanda Film currently operates 445 cinemas in China, with a total of 4,000 screens. The total gives Wanda just under a 10 percent share of China's total screen count. According to the country's media regulator, China now has 47,000 screens versus nearly 41,000 in the U.S.

In a separate filing Thursday, Dalian Wanda Group said first-half revenue surged 12 percent across the group as a whole. The property developer turned global entertainment powerhouse, headed by Wang Jianlin, one of China's richest individuals, said January to June revenue reached 134.85 billion yuan ($19.8 billion), exceeding internal targets. The company does not provide profit figures for its privately held business units.

The conglomerate's culture industry group — which includes publicly traded Wanda Film, domestic Chinese film production and distribution businesses, Legendary Entertainment and AMC Entertainment in the U.S., along with British yacht maker Sunseeker and other assets — reported a revenue increase of 5.9 percent to 30.8 billion yuan.

The revenue gains were strongest in Wanda's financial group — another area of investment and expansion — where revenue rose 46.8 percent to 20.6 billion yuan.

Wanda has been one of China's most internationally acquisitive private businesses, snapping up entertainment, sports and tourism assets around the world. The heavy spending has attracted the notice of Beijing regulators, who asked local banks to assess their exposure to the recent borrowing by Wanda, Fosun and other Chinese giants.

Wanda appears to have lost little of its appetite for expansion, however. Earlier this week, Wanda Film shares were suspended from trading on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, pending "plans to acquire film-related assets."