Jane Lanhee Lee and Matthew Miller Qingdao, China
China’s richest man, property developer Wang Jianlin, has raised the curtain on a planned 50 billion yuan (R80.5bn) “motion-picture city”, which he described as the biggest single investment in movie and television industry history.
Jianlin, 58, the founder of Dalian Wanda Group, was surrounded by Hollywood stars John Travolta, Nicole Kidman and Catherine Zeta-Jones yesterday as he launched his most ambitious project, in the picturesque coastal city of Qingdao.
When completed in 2017, the Oriental Movie Metropolis will boast 20 sound stages, including the world’s first underwater studio, a convention and exhibition complex, a shopping mall with indoor amusement park and seven resort hotels. It includes a 300-berth yacht club.
“The Oriental Movie Metropolis is a major step in China’s strategy to become a global cultural powerhouse.” It was not only crucial to the development of Wanda’s entertainment business, he added, but an important step for building China’s cultural brand.
For Wang, named by Forbes as China’s richest person with a personal wealth of $14bn (R138.5bn), the Qingdao project represents the latest move by his group to parlay its real estate and shopping mall development into a leisure and entertainment empire. The privately held group has invested in 72 Wanda Plazas across the country and 40 five-star hotels. It also owns 6 000 movie screens, 62 department stores and 68 karaoke centres.
More recently, it has turned to offshore markets to expand its property and leisure investment. Last year Wanda closed its $2.6bn buyout of US cinema chain AMC Entertainment. This year Wang announced a £1bn (R15.8bn) British investment that included a buyout of Sunseeker, Britain’s largest luxury yacht maker by sales.
Wang said this month that he could afford to spend $5bn every year to buy foreign firms or assets. In an interview on the sidelines of yesterday’s ceremony, he said he expected Wanda’s revenue to increase to $30bn this year, and to increase by $10bn every year in future.
Wanda Group says it has total assets of 300 billion yuan and annual revenue for 2012 of 141.7 billion yuan. “We will have more than $50bn in revenue in two years,” he said. “In 2020, we will have at least $100bn, even by conservative estimates.”
Wang declined to discuss financing for the project, but he has not ruled out the use of partners, or debt. – Reuters