Chinese film company will be first to list Stateside

Chinese thesp Gong Li will ring the bell at the Nasdaq stock exchange today when producer-distrib Bona Film Group becomes the first publicly traded Chinese film company to list Stateside.

Bona plans to sell up to $80 million in shares in an initial public offering on the Nasdaq Global Market. It has been preparing the listing for several years.

Because of stock exchange rules, the company is forbidden to comment on its plans ahead of the listing, but Bona is expected to use proceeds from the IPO to expand its movie theater biz, buy film distribution rights and invest in productions.

Bona is one of the leading lights in the booming Chinese film biz. Formed by CEO Yu Dong in 1999, Bona merged in 2003 with Poly Group, the business arm of China’s People’s Liberation Army. In the first three quarters of this year, Bona lost $7.5 million, compared with a year-earlier profit of $1.2 million, although revenue more than doubled to $35 million.

Bona is working with Hong Kong helmer Tsui Hark on $35 million chopsocky 3D epic “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate,” in production in China.

It has joint-distribution arrangements with state-owned China Film Group and has distributed 17 Chinese pics internationally since 2008, including Teddy Chan’s “Bodyguards and Assassins” last year.

Bank of America subsid Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan are leading the transaction, with China Investment Capital Corp. as co-lead. Cowen & Co. and Piper Jaffray are co-managers.

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