UPDATED, 12:31 PM: Dalian Wanda Group confirmed today that it will invest $3.3B by 2024 in EuropaCity, a mega-project near Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport that will boast a theme park, attractions, cultural exhibitions, retail shops, outdoor sports venues and restaurants over about 200 acres. It’s Wanda’s biggest-ever single project in Europe, which the company said will create about 14,000 jobs.“We have wanted to develop ourselves in France for a while, and particularly in Paris, as I had told the French President during his visit to China last November,” DWG president Wang Jianlin said in a statement. “EuropaCity allows us to finally reach that objective and we are pleased to collaborate with a famous French stakeholder to develop this ambitious and innovative project. For us, it is the most important project outside of China.”
PREVIOUSLY, February 25: It’s been a busy week for Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin as the exec continues his five-day European tour with stops in the UK, Switzerland and France. Already this week, Wang gave a lecture at Oxford where he announced the unveiling of a “major deal” to come Friday, while back at home, reports surfaced late yesterday that he is shopping a piece of Legendary Entertainment to Chinese investors ahead of a potential listing. Today comes word that Wanda may be making a substantial first investment in France via Paris’ EuropaCity development, and that it’s eyeing the acquisition of premiere cycing race, the Tour de France.
Due to open in 2024, EuropaCity is a mega-project near Charles de Gaulle aiport which is set to boast a theme park, attractions, cultural exhibitions, retail shops, outdoor sports venues and restaurants. Wanda is said to be in advanced talks about an investment in the development, according to The Wall Street Journal. It is unclear if this is the same “major deal” that Wang said would be announced tomorrow — and which led to speculation he might be eyeing a piece of Paramount. However, it would fall in line with the company’s real estate track record and mark an important step towards France where the Journal report says Wanda has shown interest in Amaury Sport Organisation. That’s the group that owns the Tour de France, although the talks are said to be early stages.
Wanda earlier this year said it was looking at five major acquisitions in 2016 with three of them outside China. The company in January set a $3.5B deal to acquire Legendary Entertainment which would fold into its Wanda Pictures once the deal closes formally. Industry watchers have suggested tomorrow’s announcement could be about a studio or exhibition circuit investment. Wanda already owns AMC Entertainment, but has been shopping for a Euro chain. On the studio side, it’s also after content and a distribution pipeline. It now looks as though the EuropaCity deal may be the one unveiled on Friday.
The real estate play would see money going toward a big amusement park inside the urban development project. Wanda has designs on diversifying its real estate holdings beyond China’s borders, especially with a volatile stock market. Its other offshore real estate interests include a major development on the banks of London’s River Thames and plans for an industrial park in India at a $10B investment. However, it is also currently at work on a major Middle Kingdom entertainment development which will include a theme park and the world’s largest film studio. In September 2013, the group broke ground on the $8.2B Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis complex surrounded by a who’s who of Hollywood.
Looking at a possible Amaury/Tour de France acquisition, it would be in line with other purchases Wanda made last year when it bought Swiss marketing company Infront Sports & Media and a 20% stake in Spanish football club Atlético Madrid.