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Unpaid Investors Seek Redress From Firm Connected to ‘Ip Man 3’ Backer

Over 100 private investors Thursday descended on the Shanghai offices of a Chinese securities firm, which has connections to the release of “Ip Man 3” in China and to at least one of the film’s backers.

Chinese media and international news agencies, including Reuters and Bloomberg, reported that angry investors Thursday visited Jinlu Financial Advisors demanding their money back from investments, including some tied to “Ip Man 3.”

The martial arts film starring Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson was released in China on Feb. 29 and registered a first week box office score of $72 million. However, China’s film industry regulator quickly penalized the distributor Max Screen, ticketing agencies and a number of cinemas for inflating the film’s performance. They distorted the figures by buying $8.66 million (RMB56 million) of tickets to their own movie, creating fake screenings and setting artificially high ticket prices.

Bloomberg reports that the wealth management products were created jointly by Jinlu and Kailu Investment Group. Caixin, an investigative financial publication in China, described Kailu as Jinlu’s parent company.

Payments on the products were suspended due to a $46 million (RMB300 million) cash shortage, according to a statement on Jinlu’s website. Jinlu said that it will offer investors a payment plan within a week.

Kailu, which is headed by Shi Jianxiang, also controls Hong Kong-listed company ShiFang Holdings which was recently taken over by Shi (chairman of the board,) and veteran Hong Kong film executives Tsui Siuming (as CEO), and Ng See Yuen (as an independent director).

In February, ShiFang acquired Hehe, a company which has a contract giving it the 30 year right to 55% of net box office receipts in mainland China to a slate of films including “Ip Man 3.”

As the box office fraud scandal swirled, ShiFang on Mar. 8 issued a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in which it: “solemnly clarifie(d) that the company is only an investor in the film rights of the movie and it is not participating in any distribution or release activities of the movie in the PRC.”

ShiFang is clearly familiar with Jinlu, which was creating derivative products based on its movie.

On the same day as it bought Hehe (Feb. 23,) ShiFang also proposed the acquisition of a 15% stake in Jinlu, which has 20 branch offices in Southern China. ShiFang described Jinlu’s activities as offering “customized and integrated financial consulting services.” ShiFang said Jinlu had a valuation of HK$2 billion (US$258 million), implying a HK$300 million (US$38.7 million) cost to ShiFang for the stake.

ShiFang said that Jinlu’s securities business and its own film investment activities are complimentary. “The target company (Jinlu) proposes the idea of ‘Internet + film and television + finance,’ which turns some of its financial products into a form of consumer product for film distribution by incorporating the function of film ticket redemption with investment,” ShiFang said in a Hong Kong regulatory filing.

It is not clear whether the stake purchase was completed.

On Thursday (March 31) ShiFang published its 2015 financial statement, reporting losses of US$890,000 (RMB5.8 million.) In its list of events subsequent to the Dec. 31 year end, ShiFang cited a US$20.6 million (HK$160 million) share issue and the acquisition of Hehe for US$16.9 million (HK$131 million.) But it made no mention of the proposed investment in Jinlu.

Bloomberg reports too that ShiFang’s key shareholder Kailu “also controls Shenzhen-listed Shanghai SK Petroleum & Chemical Equipment Corporation Ltd., which also invested in (“Ip Man 3”,) according to a statement dated Feb. 24.”

Kailu’s Shi is credited as a producer of 3D epic war blockbuster movie “The Bombing,” which has a multinational cast headed by Bruce Willis, Adrien Brody, Fan Bingbing, and Nicholas Tse. Shi is also the “Chinese executive producer” of the upcoming “Expendables 4.”

ShiFang’s Hehe also has a financial interest in “The Bombing,” which is currently in post-production ahead of a late 2016 release.

According to a press statement from ShiFang “(‘The Bombing’) calls for RMB700 million (US$107 million) in funding, RMB500 million (US$76.3 million) of which is already in place, representing the biggest investment to date in a Chinese-language 3D film. Given the huge investment and the impossibility in predicting the resulting income, all eyes will be on Shi’s efforts to apply the financial management model behind ‘Ip Man 3’ into ‘The Bombing’.”

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