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Wanda Looking at IPO for Sports Division (Report)

China’s Dalian Wanda is reportedly preparing an initial public offering for a large portion of its sports portfolio. The move would help the property-to-entertainment giant reduce its debts and limit exposure to areas that have irked Chinese regulators.

According to sources quoted by Reuters, Wanda has approached investment banking groups, including China’s CITIC Securities, for a share listing in Hong Kong, though New York is also considered a possibility.

Contacted by Variety, Wanda declined to comment.

The businesses to be included in the sale would likely include Swiss-based sports rights and marketing firm Infront Sports & Media, which Wanda bought for $1.2 billion in 2015, and the World Triathlon Corp., organizer of Ironman triathlon endurance races. Wanda paid $650 million for WTC the same year.

Other sports operations in the package could include Wanda’s holdings in soccer and basketball leagues. But the IPO is unlikely to include Wanda’s 20% stake in Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid.

In March 2016, Wanda became the first Chinese company to sign as a high-level partner of FIFA, the Swiss-based federation that organizes the World Cup and other tournaments. The deal gave Wanda sponsorship rights at the next four World Cups (2018, 2022, 2026 and 2030). That was widely seen as Wanda playing its part in a drive backed by Chinese President Xi Jinping to have China host the prestigious competition.

Since late 2016, however, Wanda has been out of favor with Chinese authorities, who regard the company as engaging in “irrational” overseas acquisitions. Since mid-2017 Wanda has been attempting to pare back its debts and undo the damage.

The financial industry sources cited by Reuters said that the U.K.-based Sunseeker yacht-building business, which Wanda acquired in 2013 for $495 million, is also up for sale, though not as part of the sports unit IPO. In recent months it has also been rumored that Wanda is seeking an IPO for the Europe-leading multiplex company it built from two other acquisitions, Odeon and UCI, and Nordic Cinema.

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