Ka-shing buys into Huayi

Deal brings $10 mil infusion

BEIJING — Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s Tom Group is taking a 35% stake in privately owned, Beijing-based Huayi Bros., one of the mainland’s most commercially successful film and TV producers.

Deal will bring $5 million in cash and $5 million in convertible bonds to Huayi Bros., which represents the diverse interests of founding siblings Wang Zhongjun and Wang Zhonglei in film and TV production, distribution, talent management, music and advertising.

Under the Huayi Bros. & Taihe Film banner (HTF), output has included films with broad mainland appeal, such as Feng Xiaogang’s “Cellphone” and “Big Shot’s Funeral,” He Ping’s “Warriors of Heaven and Earth,” Lu Chuan’s “Kekexili” and Stephen Chow’s “Kung Fu Hustle.”

These were all co-productions with Sony Pictures Asia, but that five-year relationship apparently has ended.

With the new investment from Tom and a 3% stake taken by venture capital player China Equity, Huayi Bros. seeks to either list publicly or find a Hollywood-based strategic partner within three years.

The Huayi Bros. deal continues Tom’s goal of accumulating integrated media and entertainment assets.

In May 2003 Tom bought out AOL Time Warner’s controlling interest in China Entertainment TV (CETV). The 24-hour Mandarin-language channel acquired national satellite broadcast rights last year.

Since their first foray into film in 1999, the Huayi brothers have built reputations as shrewd promoters and marketers of theatrical blockbusters, despite China’s difficult domestic film market.

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