China's Richest Man Eyes Bigger Deals After Legendary Purchase

China's Richest Man to Buy 'Godzilla' Producer
  • Wang keen to compete for bigger say in global film industry
  • Wanda agrees to buy Legendary for $3.5 billion in cash

Wang Jianlin, the Chinese tycoon who just agreed to acquire the co-producer of "Jurassic World" for $3.5 billion in cash, signaled bigger deals may be in the works as he builds Dalian Wanda Group Co.’s influence in the global film industry.

“Wanda already has a big say in China’s film industry, but that’s far from enough,” Asia’s richest person said at a signing ceremony in Beijing on Tuesday. “Maybe in the not too distant future, we’ll hold an even bigger ceremony. Maybe we’d be buying some big entertainment company, or entertainment group. Such things can certainly happen.”

Though he didn’t specify targets, Wang’s comments underscore the ambitions of a man seeking to expand a burgeoning global entertainment empire that already includes the second-largest U.S. movie-theater chain. On Tuesday, Wanda announced it would buy Burbank, California-based Legendary Entertainment, China’s biggest investment into Hollywood, to create the world’s biggest film company by revenue.

"The acquisition of Legendary strengthens Wanda’s entertainment ecosystem in China," said David Hao, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG in Hong Kong. "I would expect Wanda Group and Wanda Cinema to continue acquiring high-quality cinemas and online ticketing platforms both overseas and in China to further solidify its positions as the world’s largest cinema operator.”

Wang’s hinted at big acquisitions before. In a past interview with Bloomberg, he acknowledged that he was in talks to buy a majority stake in "Hunger Games" studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and that he was keen to invest in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., producer of the James Bond and Hobbit franchises. Spokesmen for both companies declined to comment at the time.

One hint dropped on Tuesday by Wang, who bought AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. in 2012, was that he was looking at cinema assets in Europe but prices are too high right now. He also said he’ll begin the process of pursuing an initial public offering of his film-production operations, including Legendary, soon.

While Wang’s Hollywood ambitions are getting bigger, his fortune is shrinking as of late. Wang’s net worth has dropped by $5.5 billion since the start of the year to $31 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. AMC Entertainment, Wanda Cinema Line Co. and Wanda’s Hong Kong-listed commercial real estate unit have seen their shares fall in recent months amid the recent China-led rout in equity markets.

Wang’s take is that the volatility seen in China’s stock market is common among emerging markets, and fluctuations in share prices can also create opportunities, he said. He cited Wanda Cinema Line, which jumped tenfold last year, as an example of the value of holding a good company for the long term.

— With assistance by Dingmin Zhang

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