Wang Jianlin

Wanda founder Wang Jianlin vows to speed up openings to hit 1,000 mall target in 10 years

The Chinese billionaire reveals his expansion plan in his first high-profile speech since July when he disposed the bulk of Wanda’s domestic assets

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 6:59am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 6:59am

Mainland Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin has vowed to accelerate the opening of his flagship malls to hit 1,000 by 2028 as he announced an upcoming cooperation with retailer Suning Commerce Group in his first high-profile speech after dumping the bulk of his domestic assets in July.

“The expansion of Wanda Plaza will significantly speed up from 2019 and hit 1,000 malls in 10 years. What does that mean? The average [footfall] traffic of a Wanda Plaza that has been in operation for a year is 20 million, and those for malls in the third and fourth-tier cities range between 13 to 15 million. That means a total of 13 to 15 billion in traffic,” said Wang, founder and chairman of Dalian Wanda Group at a Sunning business partners convention on Tuesday.

To achieve the 1,000 target, Wanda – which would have about 300 complexes by end of 2017 – will need to open 70 malls a year in the coming 10 years, up from the current yearly pace of 50 malls.

Wang said the company would begin its cooperation with Suning next year, which could involve capital investments, though no specific deals have been signed.

“We plan to tailor make bricks-and-mortar stores for Suning. As Suning expands its business into fresh food supermarket and other new stores, we’ll develop other restaurant, entertainment amenities around Suning,” he said.

Wang has stayed under the radar after July, when Wanda shocked the industry by selling the bulk of its domestic assets: 13 Wanda Cities, or theme parks, and 77 hotels in deals totalling US$9.3 billion to Sunac China Holdings and Guangzhou R&F Properties.

It was later revealed that Wang was forced to dispose the assets amid a financing crunch after Chinese state banks were ordered to check on Wanda’s high-profile asset purchases overseas.

The expansion of Wanda Plaza will significantly speed up from 2019 and hit 1,000 malls in 10 years
Wang Jianlin, Dalian Wanda Group

In the months after the sale, Wang had only met business partners, local government officials and foreign guests privately, according to the company’s website. He flew to Hong Kong in September to meet the city’s former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, quashing speculation he was barred from leaving the mainland.

Wang Jianlin meets Hong Kong’s ex-chief executive Tung, quashing talk he’s barred from travelling

Last week, Wanda issued a statement refuting a Chinese blogger’s claim that it was suffering from a cash flow problem and shrinkage in its assets.

In the statement, the company said it had more than 200 billion yuan ($30 billion) in its cash account and generated more than 200 billion yuan in revenue this year. It also said its net assets would grow this year from 300 billion yuan in 2016.

Wanda says it does not have a cash flow problem, denying allegations made by WeChat blogger

“Can you find another company in the world that could expand at such a fast speed as Wanda? How could you ignore the 230 existing Wanda Plazas across China?” it said.

At Tuesday’s conference, Wang also promised to push through his long-term agenda of integrating offline malls with online application and data, with the latest emphasis on the application of artificial intelligence.

But he admitted for the first time of Wanda’s limited success from the implementation of the company’s “online-offline integration” and “smart retail” plan after more than two years.

Wang also did not respond to speculation that the company had to cut 70 per cent of the staff of Ffan, a Wanda app that allows customers to book dinner reservations, check for parking spaces and download discount coupons, and had struggled to get off the ground. A Wanda spokesman said the company would respond to the issue soon.