Losses Halved At Alibaba Pictures

Alibaba Pictures Group, the film-making unit of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, said that it is currently not interested in short term profitability. Rather, it says that it aims to contribute to building up the Chinese cultural and entertainment industries.

Losses at the company were cut from RMB353 million ($55.2 million) to RMB151 million ($23.6 million) in the six months to June.

“The industry at present does not have an entertainment company that can play a leading role at a fundamental level, not to mention across the entire ecosystem chain. Nor does it have one that can drive efficiencies and increases in production across the entire industry,” it said in a regulatory statement. “Alibaba Pictures Group has the internet capabilities and access to a very large user base, as well as the capability across the ecosystem to bring about steady improvements to traditional industry models, which will benefit the Group and enable it to clearly differentiate itself from other platform companies in the industry.”

APG had revenues of RMB22.9 million ($3.82 million), less than half of the RMB49.1 million ($7.67 million) of the equivalent period last year.

The half year report attempts to be the first clean financial statement since the accounting irregularities uncovered at the company this time last year, and shortly after Alibaba bought a controlling stake in what was then called ChinaVision. The company has eliminated ChinaVision’s magazine and TV ad sales operations and restated the accounts from Hong Kong dollars to Chinese Yuan (aka Renminbi).

But if comparisons with the past are nuanced, forward visibility is also imperfect. A large HK$12.2 billion (US$1.57 billion) share placing reduced finance costs, and at the end of June APG spent RMB830 million ($130 million) on one of China’s largest cinema ticketing companies Yueke.

(Yueke would have lifted APG revenue by RMB74.7 million [$11.6 million] if it had been included for six months, and delivered profits RMB39,619,000 [$6.19 million]).

APG and parent company Alibaba have a non-binding understanding that Alibaba will transfer some of its entertainment assets – another online movie ticketing business and a content financing and investment platform — to the company. But APG said that no terms or timetable has been decided upon.

Nor did APG make any mention of the incarceration of its director Patrick Liu Chunning, who was detained by Chinese police on what is understood to be a probe into possible fraud at his previous employer, Tencent Video. Liu is, however, a signatory to the interim statement.

APG explained at length that it has not restructured itself into four divisions: film and television production centered; Internet-based promotion and distribution combining internet technologies and traditional off-line distribution; the building and operation of e-commerce platforms for entertainment as an extension of the Alibaba Group ecosystem; and international operations. An investment stake in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” was the international unit’s first activity and made no contribution in the reporting period. APG also opened a Los Angeles office.

The company confirmed that production is now under way on “Ferryman,” a film being produced by Wong Kar-wai and starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai, and that it will be the principal financier of “Three Lives Three Worlds Ten Miles of Peach,” for Zhang Yibai to direct and Liu Yifei to star in. TV productions are also in production.

With its shares at HK$1.75 apiece APG has a market capitalization of HK$44.1 billion ($5.69 billion).

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