China’s richest man buys Nordic cinema firm for $930m

China's richest man buys Nordic cinema firm for $930m
Wanda majority shareholder and head Wang Jianlin is China's richest man. Photo: Gerry Shih/AP
Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group said its US-based AMC Theatres chain will buy the Nordic region's largest cinema operator for $930 million, further expanding the company's world-beating cinema empire.

Wanda said late Monday the acquisition of Stockholm-based Nordic Cinema Group Holding AB, which owns Sweden's largest cinema chain SF Bio, brings the Chinese property-to-entertainment giant “one step closer to reaching the goal of taking 20 percent of (the) world's film-market share”.

“The combination with Nordic will result in AMC's hitting the never-before-reached milestone of 1,000 theatres and 11,000 screens in 15 countries,” a Wanda statement said.

“This will further strengthen AMC's current position of being the largest cinema operator in the world.”

It bought the comapny from European investors Bridgepoint and Swedish media group Bonnier Holding.

The deal follows its $1.2 billion dollar bid last summer for AMC's American rival Carmike, and another $1.2 billion takeover of Europe's biggest movie theatre Odeon and UCI Cinema, which was finalised on November 30.

US regulators approved the Carmike deal in December, after AMC addressed anti-trust concerns.

Wanda, headed by one of China's richest men, Wang Jianlin, is a commercial property developer that has diversified rapidly in recent years into entertainment and sports, partly as a buffer against Chinese real estate volatility.

Wanda bought AMC Entertainment Holdings – owner of AMC Theatres – for $2.6 billion in 2012, and last year acquired Legendary Entertainment, makers of the recent 'Batman' trilogy and 'Jurassic World', for $3.5 billion.

In 2016 Wanda also purchased Dick Clark Productions, which stages the Golden Globe awards, for about $1 billion, while AMC bought London-based Odeon & UCI cinema group, Europe's biggest movie theatre operation, for around $1.2 billion.

Nordic has 118 cinemas and 664 screens in nearly 50 cities in the Nordic and Baltic nations, Wanda's statement said.

Wanda said it or its subsidiaries now operate 1,470 cinemas and more than 15,000 screens around the world.

Chinese companies have been snapping up leading filmmakers and television producers as the government encourages domestic firms to go abroad in search of better returns and greater international influence.

But the trend has raised concern among US legislators, who fear that Chinese firms, which often have close ties to Beijing, may use their growing influence to stifle criticism of the communist government.