(Bloomberg) -- Dalian Wanda Group Co.’s founder Wang Jianlin is planning to sell the rest of the firm’s film unit as the troubled Chinese conglomerate faces increasing debt repayment pressure.
The billionaire plans to transfer his 51% stake in Beijing Wanda Investment Co., which controls Wanda Film Holding Co., to a subsidiary of China Ruyi Holdings Ltd., according to a Shenzhen Stock Exchange filing on Wednesday. That will give Ruyi full ownership after its July purchase of 49% of Beijing Wanda Investment for 2.3 billion yuan ($320 million).
The filing didn’t disclose details on the value of the purchase. China Ruyi’s Hong Kong-listed shares jumped 5.1% on Wednesday, the most since July. Wanda Film’s shares remain halted.
Ceding control from the film unit, one of Wanda’s core operations, deals a fresh blow to Wang’s ambitions of turning his firm into a rival of Walt Disney Co. The group has been in decline for years after the stock-market bubble burst in 2015 and China cracked down on excessive debt-fueled expansion by some local firms.
Its been forced to shed a raft of assets that once brought it clout, including a stake in Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid and the world’s largest cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. And Wang’s personal fortune has dived from a peak of $46.1 billion in mid-2015 to $6.2 billion.
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China’s latest economic slowdown and property market crisis has deepened the company’s woes. Investors last month rejected Wanda’s proposal to extend the deadline for the repayment of 30 billion yuan plus interest if its mall unit fails to list shares by the end of this year. Its property arm only recently managed to obtain consent from creditors to push back the maturity date for a $600 million dollar bond.
Wanda Film operates more than 800 movie theaters across China as well as Australian cinema chain Hoyts Group. It’s also invested in the production of some successful Chinese films including The Wandering Earth II and No More Bets, the country’s second- and third-highest grossing titles this year, according financial results for the three months through September.
The company has been given a boost this year from Chinese consumers’ turn to experience-led spending, including going to the cinema, over buying products amid an uncertain economic outlook. It reported profit of 692 million yuan for the third quarter, compared with 48 million yuan for the same period last year, when China was in the throes of strict Covid curbs like lockdowns.
At the start of last year, Dalian Wanda sold a stake in Legendary Entertainment LLC to Apollo Global Management Inc. for $760 million. The famous Hollywood studio is behind blockbusters including Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong.
China Ruyi operates businesses in film and television drama production, online streaming and gaming. Its shareholders include tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., according to its interim financial report.
--With assistance from Venus Feng.
(Updates the third, ninth paragraphs with share move and details on Legendary Entertainment.)
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