Executives who want to buy businesses usually keep mum about their plans, at least until something happens that forces them to talk. Why embolden potential sellers to raise their price? But Dalian Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin, who controls AMC Entertainment, played by different rules when he volunteered to Bloomberg, in a story out today, that he wants to buy Lionsgate or MGM — and is engaged in talks to buy a stake in Lionsgate. The comment contributed to a 3% gain in the studio’s market value in afternoon trading.
“Many people come knock at my door, but Wanda is only interested in the big players and we want control,” Jianlin says. “China’s movie industry is booming at unprecedented speed. Buying a well-known U.S. company will help our distribution overseas.” He added that the real estate-oriented company is “shifting our group’s focus toward culture, entertainment and e-commerce.” The reason: “China’s movie industry is growing a lot faster than that of the U.S.”
He appears to have limited buying opportunities. The Beijing-based billionaire said that he’s engaged in early-stage talks for just a minority stake in Lionsgate. In October he met with the studio’s co-Chairman Mark Rachesky, who’s interested in selling at least part of his 51 million shares, 37.4% of the total.
Another Chinese company, e-retail colossus Alibaba, also is interested – and is flush with cash after its record-setting $25B IPO. Founder Jack Ma recently visited Hollywood to talk with different studios, including Lionsgate. The companies are partners in a new Chinese subscription streaming service, Lionsgate Entertainment World, that features the studio’s movies and TV shows.
Wanda’s clearly serious about its desire to become a show business power, although most of its investments so far have also involved real estate. It paid $2.6 billion for AMC, the No. 2 domestic exhibition chain, in 2012. Last year it broke ground on the $8.2 billion Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis complex , and unveiled plans to build a $4.9B Cultural Tourism City in Wuxi with theme park and movie elements. And in August it beat at least 10 rival bidders for an iconic 8-acre site at 9900 Wilshire Blvd. where the company says it will spend $1.2 billion for a mixed-use redevelopment that will also serve as a base for its film-production investments.