Wanda Film, China’s largest cinema chain, recently unveiled grand plans to build a further 162 new multiplexes over the next three years. That is in addition to the 73 it built in 2019 and the more than 600 it has in current operation.
But China’s market regulators at the Shenzhen Stock Exchange were not impressed. They have given the company a week to explain the details of its recent $834 million of asset impairments and its current liquidity position, according to specialist financial media, Caixin.
That follows colossal losses of $664 million in calendar 2019, and the prospect of $92 million further losses in the first quarter of 2020.
The Shenzhen market regulators previously asked Wanda similar questions back in January, before the scale of the coronavirus outbreak was fully understood. The coronavirus forced the closure of all cinemas in China since the last week of January, some three and a half months ago.
The Shenzhen regulator also picked up contradictions in what Wanda Film reported. In one statement, the company claimed a 3% increase in gross box office – to $1.39 billion (RMB9.86 billion) on 230 million ticket sales – but in its explanation of the impairment losses it pointed to a sharp decrease in audience visits and box office revenue at theaters it acquired.
Wanda Film says it plans to raise up to $614 million (RMB4.35 billion) by issuing more shares. That would be used to reduce debt and to find the building of the new theaters.
Wanda Film, which is controlled by Dalian Wanda, but has its own share listing, has rarely been far from controversy. In the past, it saw its IPO delayed as regulators questioned its prospectus. At another point it was queried over plans to absorb content production and distribution unit Wanda Pictures. That deal finally went through last year, when it acquired a 96% stake in Wanda Pictures, with a value of RMB10.5 billion ($1.48 billion).