Tencent Holdings is leading a consortium of investors to acquire a 14% equity stake in Wanda Commercial Properties Co, the flagship subsidiary of Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group, for RMB 34B ($5.37B). The move by Tencent, Suning Holdings, JD.com and Sunac China Holdings to buy out minority private investors will help Wanda avoid potential payments and comes as it beats a retreat from property development. The unit is to be renamed Wanda Commercial Management Group, focusing solely on commercial management going forward. The parties will strive to take the company public as soon as possible, Wanda said today.
This comes a week after Wanda Chairman Wang outlined plans for 2018, including a focus on reducing corporate debt and predicting a comeback for his embattled company. In 2017, the real estate and entertainment giant was involved in a crackdown on so-called “irrational investments,” with Chinese authorities ordering the country’s biggest banks to stop making loans to Wanda to finance foreign entertainment acquisitions.
Wanda Commercial is the world’s biggest commercial property company. It was delisted from the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2016. If the company fails to list on the mainland Chinese market by September, Wang would have had to pay back investors who backed the delisting with a 12% annual return for domestic investors, and 10% for those overseas, Bloomberg notes.
As his company pursues an asset-light strategy, Wang in December touted the development of Wanda Plaza shopping centers, saying 1,000 will be under operation within the next 10 years in China. This is seen as laying the framework for the company’s future amid a massive pivot that was forced upon it last year, and is in line with today’s announced deal. (It is understood that Wanda is looking at listing some of AMC’s international assets while we’ve also been told the company is for sale. However, it’s believed that the Chinese portion of the world’s largest exhibition chain would stay with Wanda.)
Wanda says it plans to use the “huge online resources” of Tencent, Suning, and JD.com, and its own “vast offline commercial assets” to jointly build a “new consumption” model in China that will integrate both online and offline services.
For Tencent, today’s transaction is the latest move by the WeChat owner which last week took a minority stake in David Ellison’s Skydance and is expected to continue to be very active this year even as other Chinese conglomerates have scaled back. Tencent will also pursue a strategic cooperation with Wanda Group’s Internet Technology Group.
Suning is China’s leading O2O internet retailing company while JD.com is the country’s largest retailer by revenue, and a leader in e-commerce, logistics, technology and finance. Hong Kong-listed Sunac is one of the leading real estate developers in China, focusing on high-end real estate and commercial property development.