INVESTMENTS

Digital Domain raises fresh investment from Qualcomm chairman

Deal follows Hong Kong-listed visual effects studio operator’s initiative to build Asia’s largest motion capture facility in China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 8:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 10:38pm

Digital Domain Holdings, which operates the world’s largest independent visual-effects company, has raised new investment from Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs amid an ambitious effort to build its first production facility in mainland China.

In a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange on Tuesday night, Digital Domain chief executive Daniel Seah Ang said the company agreed to allot and issue a total of 70 million shares to the Paul E Jacobs Trust for HK$38.5 million.

That announcement followed Digital Domain’s signing of a memorandum of understanding with Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, the world’s biggest private property developer and cinema chain operator.

Under the agreement, Digital Domain will establish its first so-called motion capture stage in Wanda Studios Qingdao, a filmmaking complex being developed by the Wanda Group and the Qingdao municipal government at an estimated cost of US$8.2 billion.

“With Wanda Studios Qingdao, the world’s largest film and television industrial park, we’re bringing not only our top-notch Hollywood technologies, but also establishing the largest motion capture stage in Asia,” Seah said in a statement.

“Our high-end technology will be able to cater to the production needs of different movie genres.”

Motion capture is the process of recording the movement of objects or people, a technology that started in the life sciences market for gait analysis. It is now widely used by visual effects studios for movies, TV shows, video games and advertising campaigns.

Digital Domain’s expansion plans in mainland China, the world’s second biggest movie market, have led it to establish a local subsidiary in January and pursue increased financing over the past 12 months.

The investment by Jacobs, who is the son of Qualcomm’s founder, represents the fourth major subscription deal made by Digital Domain since December last year.

Headquartered in California, semiconductor and telecommunications company Qualcomm is the world’s top supplier of mobile chips used in smartphones and other wireless devices.

According to Digital Domain, it has secured net proceeds totalling HK$579.95 million from major subscription transactions in December and May.

About HK$362.87 million of that amount will be used for Digital Domain’s media entertainment business segment, which is largely composed of the operations of visual effects subsidiary Digital Domain 3.0.

The award-winning Los Angeles-based subsidiary owns and operates the largest motion capture stage in North America, according to Digital Domain.

The investment by Jacobs’ personal trust and another subscription deal last month that is yet to close are expected to amount to HK$238.25 million in net proceeds.

Completion of those two deals are conditional upon the approval of the listing committee of the Hong Kong stock exchange.

“The introduction of strategic investors ... not only represents their confidence in Digital Domain’s solid business foundation, sound strategy and robust potential, but also ... increases our capital base for future business development,” Seah said last month.

The company last month reported an interim net loss of HK$158.88 million, compared with a HK$76.39 million deficit in the first half of last year.

Revenue, however, grew 19 per cent to HK$348.13 million, up from HK$293.49 million a year earlier.