Wanda to invest in Sony's film unit

Mr Wang Jianlin, ranked as Asia's second-richest man on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has set a target for his Wanda Group to overtake Disney as the world's largest tourism company by 2020. As part of that aim, he is developing 15 Wanda City proj
Mr Wang Jianlin, ranked as Asia's second-richest man on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has set a target for his Wanda Group to overtake Disney as the world's largest tourism company by 2020. As part of that aim, he is developing 15 Wanda City projects across China by the end of the decade.PHOTO: REUTERS

Tycoon spearheading expansion of China's leisure industry

BEIJING • Billionaire Wang Jianlin's Dalian Wanda Group yesterday agreed to collaborate on movie projects with Sony Corp's film unit as the Chinese tycoon builds on his ambitions to expand in Hollywood.

The tycoon is also preparing to open his second Wanda City as he escalates efforts to fend off Walt Disney in China.

Hefei Wanda City, about 500km west of the US$5.5 billion (S$7.5 billion) Shanghai Disney Resort, will open to the public today.

Besides theme park facilities, the 35 billion yuan (S$7 billion) development will include hotels, a movie theatre, a shopping mall and residential apartments across 160ha, according to Wanda.

Mr Wang is seeking to spearhead the expansion of China's leisure industry by developing 15 Wanda City projects across the country by the end of the decade.

Including others, a total of 59 new theme parks will open in China by 2020, serving an estimated 220 million park-goers and rivalling the United States in terms of scale, according to estimates from industry consultancy Aecom.

Mr Wang, ranked as Asia's second-richest man on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has set a target for Wanda Group to overtake Disney as the world's largest tourism company by 2020. As part of that effort, Wanda earlier this year bought Hollywood producer Legendary Entertainment, and one of its units has offered to buy Carmike Cinemas to create the biggest movie theatre chain in the US.

The latest expansion into Hollywood comes in the form of a deal with Sony, the studio behind the Spider-Man movies. Wanda will invest in productions from Sony Pictures as part of an open-ended partnership, the Chinese company said in a statement. In turn, Wanda will "highlight the China elements" in the movies it invests in, it said.

"In the past, the partnership between a Chinese company and a Hollywood mainstream studio was mostly limited to small investment in a single film, and the Chinese company was a passive investor in both content and investment amount," according to the statement.

"The alliance will help strengthen Wanda's power to influence the global film industry, and set a good precedent for Chinese film producers in their international investment."

Wanda will pursue more strategic alliances with content companies, it added. For the Hollywood arm of Sony, the Japanese maker of PlayStation, winning the backing of Wanda could help it gain greater access to China's restricted movie market.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2016, with the headline 'Wanda to invest in Sony's film unit'. Print Edition | Subscribe