Charging into China

Brit financier, Shanghai Film partner

U.K.-based finance house Nations Trust has committed $800 million to a joint venture with China’s Shanghai Film Group Corp.

Deal, being touted as a marriage of Hollywood and China’s media sector, calls for cooperation on movie production and distribution as well as a massive upgrade of SFG’s facilities.

The first development phase will transform SFG’s Old Nanjing Road backlots into a “Shanghai Nights”-themed entertainment complex.

The second phase will overhaul SFG facilities to provide a film and TV shooting base, post-production facilities and theater complexes. It also will provide for film and TV co-productions, CG animations, international distribution of films and TV series plus entertainment and leisure projects.

Third phase is construction of an “East Meets West” movie theme park.

Nations Trust said the joint-venture deal was signed with SFG topper Ren Zhonglun on Feb. 14, but kept under wraps while it raised the $800 million in initial funding.

The Hollywood-China joint venture will initially be 75% owned by Nations Trust China Holdings, a Nations Trust subsidiary. Over the five-year construction period, financing is expected to grow to $1.5 billion, and the org will offer shares to investors.

SFG, which already owns the Crowne Plaza Hotel where the Shanghai Film Festival is housed, will raise more coin to build a hotel and retail complex within the Shanghai Nights complex.

SFG, part of the giant Shanghai Media Group, operates the Shanghai Film Studio, animation and dubbing studios, five movie production shingles and 14 TV outfits. Since it swallowed up part of the Warner Bros. Cinemas circuit in Shanghai, it has also become one of the largest exhibitors in China. It runs 75 complexes with 198 screens.

Nations Trust said it has spent seven years knocking the deal into shape, creating risk management programs for investors and putting in place lenders’ indemnity insurance.

In recent weeks, it has accelerated the venture by approaching major Hollywood studios, distributors and a theme-park operator.

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