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Malaysia’s largest cinema chain Golden Screen Cinemas has been put up for sale by its owner the Robert Kuok-controlled PPB. The asking price is some $500 million, according to reports.

According to Bloomberg and Malaysian official news agency Bernama, PPB has already received several preliminary offers for GSC.

It is unclear whether PPB favors a trade sale or is more likely to settle with financial investors. The sale process is certain to excite speculation about further expansion by the leading Chinese and Korean exhibition giants.

Both China’s Wanda and Korea’s CJ-CGV have committed themselves to international expansion through acquisition. In April, CJ-CGV agreed to buy Turkey’s largest chain Mars, while last month the Wanda-controlled AMC agreed to buy pan-European chain Odeon-UCI. Previously CJ-CGV made acquisitive moves to become the largest cinema operator in Vietnam and a small player in Indonesia. Wanda also bought Australia’s number two chain Hoyts.

GSC operates 345 screens from some 40 sites in Malaysia and other parts of South East Asia and last year made profits of $16 million. It has a joint venture in Vietnam with the country’s third chain Galaxy.

The company was formed in 1997 when PPB merged its Golden Communications unit (which owned the former Shaw Cinemas circuit) together with Borneo Filem (which had the Malaysian cinema circuit from the Cathay Organisation.) Golden Harvest owned a minority interest until 2006.

The last ten years has seen rapid growth of the cinema business in Malaysia as GSC and other chains have built modern multiplexes, expanded outside the major cities and become almost entirely digital.