China’s Dalian Wanda Group is selling a $1.24 billion stake in its listed film unit to a pair of investors led by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, as the conglomerate looks to bring in strategic partners and raise new funds. The property-to-entertainment firm will sell the combined 12.77 percent in Wanda Film Holding Co Ltd to e-commerce giant Alibaba and state-backed Cultural Investment Holdings Ltd for a total of 7.8 billion yuan ($1.24 billion). The move, hot on the heels of a separate deal to bring in investors to its commercial property unit, underscores a major shift by Wanda towards a streamlined, “asset light” model, amid a broad crackdown in China on high levels of corporate debt. In the latest deal, Alibaba will invest 4.68 billion yuan of the total, Wanda said in a statement, adding Wanda would maintain control of the firm with a 48.09 percent stake.
Wanda said the deal would give its film arm access to Alibaba’s strength in big data, while Cultural Investment, indirectly controlled by Beijing city’s cultural assets arm, would help open up tourism-related opportunities. “The main purpose of the equity transfer of Wanda Film Holding is to bring in shareholders with strategic value,” Wanda said. In late January, Wanda said its commercial property arm had reached a deal to get a $5.4 billion investment from a group led by tech giant Tencent Holdings.
The Wanda Film stake sale will add to the around $16 billion in investment deals that Wanda has announced since last year. Wanda Film includes Wanda’s film production, marketing and distribution assets, including over 500 cinemas, but does not include Wanda’s U.S.-based studio Legendary Entertainment and several other film-related assets. The film unit had operating revenues of 13.2 billion yuan last year, Wanda said in its statement.