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Wanda eyes more M&A deals this year

2015-02-11 10:43 China Daily Web Editor: Qin Dexing

Wang Jianlin, the self-made Chinese billionaire who made his fortune by building shopping malls, is actively diversifying his assets through global mergers and acquisitions.

"Wanda Group is targeting revenue of 100 billion yuan ($16 billion) by 2020 from its culture business," said Wang, chairman of Wanda Group Co, on Tuesday, at a news conference in Beijing to announce the company's purchase of Swiss Sports Group Infront.

By culture business, Wang was referring to the emerging media and entertainment sector, as Chinese consumers are spending more on "spiritual life" and the nation's leadership stresses reducing reliance on traditional industrial growth like property development.

The company controls the world's second-largest commercial property assets, as well as a fast-expanding entertainment business including the movie-theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings bought in 2012, theme parks under construction in China, and a Hollywood-style film base in the coastal city of Qingdao in Shandong province.

It seems that Wang is shifting his focus from building shopping malls and office buildings to the entertainment and property integrated businesses.

Wanda's new targets may include Hong Kong-based cash-strapped Asia Television Ltd. Local media said Wang had placed a bid to purchase 10.75 percent stake from ATV's biggest shareholder. If he manages to beat the other three competitors, Wang could buy as much as a 52.4 percent stake and become the controlling shareholder of the company.

Wang did not confirm the development on Tuesday, but said Wanda would "accomplish at least two major M&As this year in the culture industry".

ATV, together with Television Broadcasts Ltd, are the only two competitors in the free-to-air television broadcasting market in Hong Kong. But the former has been beleaguered by a shrinking market share, delayed employee payments and risks losing its free-to-air license as it has no funds to pay the HK$10.2 million ($1.316 million) in overdue license fees and penalties.

Francis Kwok, marketing director of the Bright Smart Securities Ltd based in Hong Kong, said: "I would say that ATV is not an attractive asset.

"Television stations have been facing a cash crunch after advertisers started shifting to new media channels. Huge inputs of time and energy are needed to revive ATV. However, a white knight with strong capital does have its advantages," he said.

Wang's fortune almost doubled within three months to above $28 billion, after his property units and cinema chain went public in December and January, respectively, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That moved him closer to China's richest man, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's Jack Ma, who was worth about $34.4 billion on Tuesday.

Wanda announced a 45 million euro ($39.87 million) deal to buy a 20 percent stake in Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid in late January and is now in talks to buy a stake in Lions Gate Entertainment, the Hollywood film studio. A $1.2 billion luxury apartment and office development in Beverly Hills Wanda bought last August is also expected to aid the group's entry to the Unites States' film industry.

Net profit for Wanda Group would reach 60 billion yuan, of which over 20 percent would come from overseas, while sales from cultural, tourism, finance and e-commerce businesses will speed up the company's diversification, the company said in a statement in late January.

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