(REUTERS/BLOOMBERG) - Chinese property and investment firm Dalian Wanda Group has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Legendary Entertainment, valuing the United States movie studio company at between US$3 billion (S$4.27 billion ) and US$4 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The move represents Wanda's latest bid to expand overseas and become a major player in the US entertainment industry following its acquisition of AMC Entertainment Holdings, the second-largest cinema chain in North America, for US$2.6 billion in 2012.
Wanda, controlled by China's richest man, Mr Wang Jianlin, will own a little more than half of Legendary Entertainment, with Legendary founder and chief executive officer Thomas Tull and the rest of its management owning the remainder, the person said on Monday.
Other investors in Legendary, including Japan's telecommunication conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp and investment firm Waddell & Reed Inc, have agreed to sell their stakes in the company, the person added.
An agreement has been signed and could be announced as early as next week, the person said, asking not to be identified because the deal is not yet public.
Wanda, Legendary, SoftBank and Waddell & Reed did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Founded in 2000, Legendary has produced hits such as The Dark Knight, Jurassic World, Man Of Steel, and the 2014 remake of Godzilla, as well as The Hangover film franchise.
Legendary generally provides half the financing for movies whose budgets can run up to US$200 million or more.
It also has an agreement with China Film Co, the largest and most influential film company in China, to co-produce movies.
Wanda is the leading shareholder of China's biggest cinema chain, Wanda Cinema Line Corp.
It may also list its film production and distribution unit by the end of 2016, its company founder was quoted as saying in an interview with Caixin Weekly financial magazine in November.
It is building the world's biggest studio-plus-theme park on China's eastern coast and in 2014 bought land in Beverly Hills, calling the US$1.2 billion complex it plans to erect there its "first important step into Hollywood."
Mr Wang's net worth is estimated at US$33.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index.