Wanda Cinema buys Australian theater operator Hoyts

2015-06-26 09:23Global Times Editor: Li Yan

New deal will strengthen group's overseas entertainment business

Wanda Cinema Line, a subsidiary of Chinese property and entertainment giant Wanda Group, announced Thursday to purchase Australian cinema operator Hoyts Group for $365.7 million, another step forward in its global strategy.

The acquisition aims at expanding the company's business overseas, which will also help improve its competitiveness, Wanda Cinema said in a filing to the Shenzhen stock market Thursday.

As a major entertainment company based in New South Wales, Hoyts Group operates more than 400 screens and over 89,000 seats in Australia and New Zealand, according to the company's corporate profile on Hoyts Group also owns Hoyts Kiosk, which is the largest network of DVD and Blue-ray rental machines in Australia, and Val Morgan - a cinema screen advertisement provider operating in Australia and New Zealand, according to the profile.

"The new purchase is part of the company's global strategy," Xi Ping-jian, an analyst specializing on merger and acquisition at Shanghai-based Everbright Securities Co, told the Global Times Thursday.

Wang Jianlin, Wanda's chairman, was quoted in a press release in July 2014 as saying that Wanda would increase its investment in the overseas entertainment business by acquiring one or two large entertainment companies as part of its internationalization strategy.

Xi noted that the acquisition of U.S. movie theater group AMC Theatres enhanced Wanda Group's confidence in the overseas market.

"Though there were doubts about the deal at the beginning, AMC's rising sales and net income showed that the company made the right choice," Xu said.

Wanda purchased AMC for $2.6 billion in May 2012. "This acquisition will help make Wanda become a truly global cinema owner, with theaters and technology that enhance the movie experience of audiences in the world's two largest movie markets," Wang was quoted as saying in an announcement published by AMC in May 2012.

"Though Australia is less populated than the U.S., it has been attracting a growing number of Chinese migrants," Xi said, noting that Wanda has also been active in the Australian real estate and tourism sectors.

Overseas migration has been a large contributor to the total Australian population growth for several years, according to a report issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in January. While the largest migrant groups were people born in the UK and New Zealand, the next two most common places of birth were China and India, with around 450,000 and 400,000 people respectively as of June 2014, the ABS report showed.

Wanda Cinema has been actively expanding not only into entertainment industries but also in capital markets. The company launched its IPO on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in January, becoming the first A-share cinema industry stock listed on the Shenzhen bourse, according to the company's website.

"Wanda has surpassed its major rival Jinyi Cinema in the race to launch an IPO, which helps the company build brand and expand business," Huang Guofeng, an industry analyst with Beijing-based market research firm Analysys International, told the Global Times Thursday.

Wanda Cinema has been enlarging its theater chains at the fastest pace compared to other cinema operators in the country, Huang said. "We estimate that the company will maintain its leading position till 2016."

The company's total revenue in 2014 reached 5.34 billion yuan ($860 million), representing an increase of 32.7 percent over 2013, according to the company's annual report released in April. Net profit was also up by about 32.7 percent to 803 million yuan, the filing showed.

Wanda Cinema opened 1,015 theaters nationwide in 2014 with 5,397 new screens, according to the report. The company said in the report that it also moved its investment from first- and second-tier cities to third- and fourth-tier cities in the country and expects to surpass the US in terms of the number of screens in the next few years.

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