Wanda is to sell 91% of its “cultural tourism” business – including theme parks – for RMB 29.57 billion ($4.4bn).
There will still, however, be parks named Wanda after the deal is completed later this month.
Wanda says the agreement between Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties and Sunac China Holdings, one of China’s largest real estate developers, is based on “friendly consultation”. It is said to be the second-biggest real estate deal ever in China.
The deal includes nearly all of Wanda’s current and planned tourism projects. Sunac has agreed a separate deal worth RMB 35.6bn ($4.9n) for the acquisition of 76 of Wanda’s 102 hotels.
Sunac will take control of the Wanda Cultural Tourism City projects in Xishuangbanna, Nanchang, Hefei and the recently opened Harbin Wanda Cultural Tourism City. Xishuangbanna includes an outdoor ski resort and indoor watermark. The other three all feature a theme park, retail and other real estate. Hefei also has an indoor waterpark, whilst Harbin boasts the world’s largest indoor snow park.
The Wanda Cultural Tourism City brand will continue to be used by Sunac, and Wanda will remain responsible for the projects’ operations management, the company insists. The hotels’ existing management contracts will stay in place until their expiration.
Upcoming Wanda Cultural Tourism Cities included as part of the deal include projects in Wuxi, Qingdaa, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guilin, Jinan, Kunming and Haikou.
Sunac will be responsible for each project’s loans and financing as Wanda retains responsibility for design, construction and quality. The projects will be developed, as previously, according to plans and content approved by government. In addition, Wanda and Sunac will establish a strategic co-operation in “extensive areas including movie.”
Reasons for Wanda’s retreat
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal between the two parties will help Wanda cut its massive debt load. It will also bolster its case with Beijing regulators for an IPO (stock market floatation). The conglomerate pulled its core property unit off the Hong Kong stock exchange last year. It plans to relist in mainland China, where valuations are among the world’s highest.
Wanda’s aggressive expansion under the watch of chairman Wang Jianlin has seen it acquire the AMC cinema chain, British yacht-maker Sunseeker, the company behind the Iron Man triathlon races, and Hollywood movie studio Legendary Entertainment.
Its home-grown theme parks have not all been a raging success. Its first major outlet, Wanda Movie Park Wuhan, closed just months after opening in in late 2014 after early admission numbers plummeted. Wanda said the park was closing temporarily for upgrades, but it has yet to reopen.
The company’s first major theme park development in Nanchang – which Wang talked up last year while publicly dismissing Disney’s theme park ambitions in China — reported attendance of approximately 1.3 million in its first seven months. Announcing plans to build at least 20 major cultural projects across the country, Wang boasted of a “wolf pack” competing against Disney’s “lone tiger”. Shanghai Disneyland welcomed over 11 million visitors in its first full year.
Main image: Wanda City Hefei