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China’s Wanda Grows Film Business Despite Year of Turbulence

wanda Imax China
Courtesy of Wanda

Dalian Wanda, the company that did most to thrust China into Hollywood’s midst before being forced to pull back two years ago, reported mixed financial results for 2018. Group asset values were down for the second year, but its film business revenues grew by 9%.

Holding its annual corporate meeting in Qingdao over the weekend, the property-to-entertainment giant said that it holds assets worth RMB626 billion ($92.7 billion). That is an 11% decline compared with the RMB700 ($104 billion) figure it reported for 2017.

Nevertheless, the company said that it had achieved its targets and tasks in all sectors. Operating revenue was reported as $31.7 billion (RMB214 billion), a 6% decline compared with 2017. The parent holding company is privately held and does not report its net profits.

Wanda Cultural group’s mix of listed and unlisted businesses reported revenues of $10.2 billion (RMB69.3 billion), up 8%. Its film businesses enjoyed revenues of $8.61 billion (RMB58.1 billion), up 9% – in line with the growth of nationwide Chinese box office revenues.

New cinema openings slowed to 114 new complexes, with 1,009 screens, in 2018, compared to 199 multiplexes worldwide opened in 2017. Including theaters operated by AMC, which it owns, Wanda operated 1,641 cinema complexes, with a combined 16,600 screens, at the end of 2018.

The falloffs in Wanda’s asset and operating revenue reflect its efforts to reduce net debt, and, in compliance with Chinese government directives, to scale back its overseas operations. The group has sold off nearly all of its overseas property portfolio, including a prime piece of land in Beverly Hills, and slashed its stake in AMC. It also sold off its Chinese theme parks and movie production studios in Qingdao.

Those disposals have reshaped the group, concentrating a higher proportion of its assets in China and skewing operating revenues towards its remaining services businesses. It opened 49 new Wanda Plaza shopping malls in the past year. It says it is targeting hospitals and healthcare facilities in China as its newest growth sector.