China’s Dalian Wanda to pump in billions in Paris retail & leisure project, dubbed EuropaCity

Dalian Wanda Group Co. Chairman Wang Jianlin. Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group Co. is planning to invest billions of euros in a retail and leisure development outside of Paris, according to two people familiar with the matter.

An announcement may come as soon as Friday, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the project is confidential. Wang said at the University of Oxford on Tuesday that Wanda would announce a “major deal” this week, though he didn’t provide details. The project, known as EuropaCity, will be built in Gonesse, a town 16 kilometers northeast of Paris, between Le Bourget and Charles de Gaulle airports, according to a website for the property.

For Wanda, which runs theme parks across China, movie theater chains in the U.S. and a soccer club in Spain, the move represents a renewed overseas push, underscoring Wang’s increasingly global ambitions. The conglomerate agreed in January to buy “Godzilla”-producer Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion, paving the way for the tycoon to become the first Chinese person to control a Hollywood film company.

Auchan Project

Construction on EuropaCity is slated to begin in 2019, with the project opening in 2024, according to the website. The development, being built by property company Immochan, will include a theme park, shopping center, water and snow parks, sports fields, performance spaces and hotels, according to the site. Immochan is the development arm of Groupe Auchan, a family-owned supermarket operator. A spokesman for Immochan declined to comment.

With theme parks, Wang has set his sights on beating Walt Disney Co. In January, he told executives that visitor arrivals and revenue at Wanda’s tourism projects in Wuxi and Guangzhou will beat those of Disneyland in Shanghai and Hong Kong, respectively, according to a transcript of the speech posted on the company’s website.

The move may also add to challenges facing the Disneyland Paris amusement park, which needed a bailout in 2014 to upgrade its facilities and reverse a slump in attendance.

Wang, who vies with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Jack Ma as China’s richest man, has had a busy year. Besides the Legendary deal, Wanda announced a $2.3 billion investment in three hospitals, the formation of a financial group and the signing a $10 billion development deal in India. In addition, Wanda has said it’s planning five major acquisitions in 2016 — three of them overseas.

European Investments

Separately, the group’s Wanda Cinema Line Co. theater-chain unit was halted from trading in Shenzhen on Wednesday pending the announcement of an acquisition and the Wall Street Journal reported that the group is seeking to raise $1.5 billion from domestic Chinese investors for its closely held film-making Wanda Pictures subsidiary.

While Wang’s investments in Europe include the Club Atletico de Madrid soccer team and Swiss marketing firm Infront Sports & Media AG, Wanda’s culture-and-entertainment business has a relatively smaller presence in the region than in China.

Wanda is seeking to acquisitions to bolster growth as the group braces for falling sales from its main property business. That’s prompted Wang, estimated by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index to have a fortune of $27.2 billion, to increasingly look toward expanding his entertainment business.

Wang’s film, tourism and sports operations all fall under Wanda’s fast-growing Cultural Industry Group, which saw revenue climb 46 percent last year and is forecast to climb 30 percent in 2016. By comparison, Wanda Group estimates overall sales rose 19 percent in 2015 and will probably decline 12 percent this year because of the slump in its property business.

Also read:

China’s realty giant Dalian Wanda to foray into India; plans $10b industrial park

Chinese major Dalian Wanda Group mulls IPO for Internet finance unit

Chinese Wanda Group acquires majority stake in US movie studio Legendary Entertainment

Bloomberg

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In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

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  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.