HONG KONG – Chinese investor ID Leisure Ventures has been confirmed as the buyer of Hoyts, Australia’s second largest cinema chain.

ID emerged earlier this month as the front-runner to buy the chain from Pacific Equity Partners, which has owned the circuit since 2007.

ID was founded by Sun Xishuang, a billionaire businessman known to be close to Dalian Wanda group, China’s largest property developer.

Wanda today saw the stock market debut of its Wanda Commercial Properties arm.

The value of the transaction with ID was not disclosed in a statement from Hoyts, though finance industry estimates have estimated the price tag to be close to US745 million (A$900 million). PEP had previously considered an IPO for Hoyts before settling on a private sale.

Sun also heads property developer Dalian Yifang and is understood to own a 6.3% stake in Wanda Commercial Properties and a 4.2% stake in Wanda Cinema Line, Wanda’s exhibition circuit which recently received approval for its own IPO in China.

The deal is bound to give rise to speculation that ID will sooner or later re-sell Hoyts to Wanda or to Wanda Cinema Line. Such a deal would have been logistically difficult at a time when Dalian Wanda was in the midst of two IPOs.

Wanda raised US$3.72 billion (HK$28.8 billion) through the sale of shares at the Wanda Commercial Properties IPO in Hong Kong. The shares were listed at HK$48 apiece and at the end of the morning trading session on Tuesday (Dec 23) they were trading little changed at HK$48.2. By the end of the first day they closed down at HK$46.75.

“We look forward to the investment and development of Hoyts going forward under the ownership of a new investor, ID Leisure,” said Hoyts chief executive Damian Keogh in the statement. “Hoyts is embarking on a number of exciting opportunities and together with ID Leisure, we will continue to invest in the exceptional customer experience currently offered to 20 million attendees annually.”