Jin Yan Saddles up as Galloping Horse Head

HONG KONG – Beijing Galloping Horse, the Chinese group that last year bought and sold a majority stake in Digital Domain, has appointed Jin Yan, as chairman of the board and general manager.

She takes over following the sudden death on Jan. 2 of her husband, Li Ming, who was founder and driving force behind the advertising, TV and films group.

The move, however, does little to clarify the corporate and financial direction of the company.
Other leading candidates to take over Li’s place were Li’s two sisters Li Li and Li Ping and
Ivy Zhong, the company’s vice chairman and executive director.

The company was in active preparations for a share listing on a mainland Chinese stock exchange and was in the midst of assembling documentation for the China Securities Regulatory Commission.

Chinese securities practice usually rules out an IPO of a company where the most senior management has changed in the past three years, although exceptions are possible.

Jin is a documentary director and has production credits on some of Galloping Horse’s titles. But it is not clear whether what management role she has previously occupied. While the company says she has brought screenwriters and directors to the fold, other sources say it is unclear whether she will be able to prove to securities regulators that she was acting in concert with her husband.

The flow of IPOs in China has been held back for the past couple of years by regulatory intervention, though recently some new companies have come to market.

Urgently achieving a share listing is an imperative for Galloping Horse. Not only are there several other media and entertainment companies which might profit from a delay to take its place in the IPO queue, Galloping Horse needs to be able to offer an exit strategy for its institutional backers.

In March 2011 Galloping Horse raised RMB750 million ($122 million) from a group of 40 investors led by CCB International Cultural PE Fund. At the time the company said that the fund-raising exercise would be its last before flotation. Since that time the company’s profits have wobbled and recovered, and prices for Chinese media assets have come under scrutiny.

Alternatives to an IPO might include Galloping Horse taking over an existing listed company, or allow itself to be taken over. Last year there were unconfirmed reports that Huayi Brothers, China’s largest private sector film and TV group, made an unsuccessful bid for Galloping Horse.

While the two groups have significant overlap – in film and TV production, talent management and cinema exhibition – acquisition of Galloping Horse by Huayi would help Huayi scale up across the board and particularly beef up its TV production activities.

The company is currently in production on John Woo-directed epic “The Crossing.”

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