China's richest man hunts for US hotel firms

Property developer also in talks with cinema chains after purchase of AMC

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 September, 2013, 3:05am

Wang Jianlin, mainland China's richest man and owner of its biggest commercial land developer, said he has hired two investment banks to buy hotel management companies, mostly in the United States.

He is also in talks with overseas cinema chains following his US$2.6 billion purchase of the second-largest US cinema operator, AMC Entertainment, last year, Wang said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Dalian. He didn't name the investment banks or targets.

Wang's closely held Dalian Wanda develops property and shopping centres and runs department stores, luxury hotels and cinemas. Over two decades, he has built 72 shopping centres throughout the mainland called Wanda Plazas, anchored by his firm's department stores, office buildings and cinemas.

Dalian Wanda's revenue will exceed US$100 billion by 2020, with at least 20 per cent of sales coming from outside China, he said. Wang is accelerating acquisitions overseas, as the country's real estate market is overheating.

China's property market is "definitely" in a bubble, Wang said. At the same time, it is "controllable, not big", he said.

The Dalian Wanda conglomerate is owned by Wang and his son Wang Sicong. The 58-year-old founder has a net worth of US$13.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Wang said he intends to go forward with plans to sell shares in AMC overseas. Last month, AMC disclosed plans for a US initial public offering, seeking US$400 million. The chain may use proceeds to fuel expansion and repay debt, according a regulatory filing. The company had about US$2.1 billion of long-term debt on June 30.

He acquired a stake in Sunseeker International, a British maker of luxury yachts used in the James Bond movies, for US$1.6 billion in June.

Wang said he also plans to spend more than US$1 billion to build a luxury residential complex along the banks of London's Thames river.

The billionaire is the oldest of five brothers born to a military family in Sichuan province. His father fought for Mao Zedong's Red Army during the Long March campaign in the 1930s, and later against the Japanese in the second world war.

Wang joined the People's Liberation Army as a teenager and served for 16 years before he was honourably discharged as an officer.

He later landed a job at an indebted residential developer affiliated with the northern port city of Dalian, changed the company's name to Dalian Wanda and became its general manager in 1992.