Huayi Brothers Media, China’s biggest private film company, has inked deals with two of China’s biggest internet companies, Alibaba and Tencent, that has seen it raise $590 million (RMB3.6 billion) through a private placing of new shares.
The strategic agreement with online giant Alibaba, which currently has a larger market valuation than Walmart, will cover e-commerce, online entertainment and movie development. The agreement with Tencent will also cover movie development as well as online games and TV.
Alibaba and Tencent will each hold more than 8% of Huayi Brothers moving forward.
Huayi plans to issue 145 million shares in private placement, in which Tencent will buy 51.55 million shares and Jack Ma’s investment firm Yunfeng will buy 61.76 million shares.
Also investing in Huayi will be Ping’an Capital Management, which will buy 27.4 million Huayi shares, and CITIC Securities, which will take 4.3 million shares.
Analysts have been waiting to see what moves internet giants Alibaba and Tencent, who make up two-thirds of China’s so-called BAT companies along with Baidu, will make in the film and TV fields.
It is significant, and telling, that this major play is a Chinese one with Huayi Brothers.
According to reports, the Alibaba deal will see Jack Ma’s company invest 5-10% of the budget on five Huayi films over the next three years with the two working together on distributing the projects. Alibaba and Huayi will also work together on up to features through Alibaba’s crowd funding Yulebao platform. Huayi will also make us of Alibaba’s online ticketing services, with all merchandising and products related to the films to be sold initially exclusively on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms.
The Tencent deal is essentially a first look arrangement between Huayi to explore developing games, publishing products and comic books together; with a further option to expanding into TV production.
In September, Tencent launched film subsidiary Tencent Movie Plus, with the stated aim to make four or five films a year, according to local reports.
Huayi Brother co-chairmen James and Dennis Wang hailed the two deals as turning Huayi into “the leading entertainment power in China.”
The company reported a 10.4% rise in net profits last month for the first three quarters of 2014.
Huayi initially kicked the tires of Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8 before deciding to launch its own fully owned and controlled US subsidiary with initial funding of $130 million to develop and produce English language productions.