China property

Wanda Network shrinks its tech workforce as Wang Jianlin’s transformation strategy falters

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2018, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 January, 2018, 2:20pm

Wanda Network Technology Group, a unit of the property conglomerate founded by one of China’s biggest overseas asset buyers, is slashing its workforce, the latest sign that the technology ambition of one of the country’s wealthiest men is faltering.

Wanda Network would shrink its workforce to 300 jobs from 6,000, according to a December 29 report by The Paper, a Chinese news website. The company is transferring staff to the Guizhou provincial capital of Guiyang with a monthly salary of 2,800 yuan (US$431), according to a Wanda notice circulating on the internet.

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Retrenchment at the technology company is ongoing, Wanda said in response to the Post’s queries, although no number can be disclosed, adding that the headcount figure cited by The Paper was wrong.

Wanda Network, established in 2014, was supposed to spearhead the transformation by one of China’s biggest builders from its traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses in theme parks, shopping malls and hotels into the digital era.

With businesses in digital commerce, smart life, financial technology and cloud computing for the public, Wanda Network was supposed to become profitable by 2018, with 2020 net income projected to surpass 10 billion yuan (US$1.54 billion), Wanda’s chairman and founder Wang Jianlin said during his 2016 annual meeting, citing the unit’s five-year business plan.

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By December last year, Wang had lowered his forecasts, admitting that Wanda’s three-year venture into the digital world, including the integration of its offline business with its online presence, was not successful. The company’s focus had narrowed to improving the managerial efficiency of its own retail properties, he said.

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Ffan card, a credit and payment card for merchants and customers at Wanda’s malls, was an example of how the digital strategy failed to live up to Wang’s expectations, struggling to get 1 million users in the past year, far from the target of 500 million that the tycoon announced in early 2016.

The firm shifted emphasis to other areas in mid-2017, announcing its tie-up with IBM to jump start its public cloud business.

The company was supposed to launch its cloud service in the first quarter, aiming to become one of China’s biggest public cloud computing providers in five years, its chief technology officer Sean Yang said in a July interview with the South China Morning Post. Contacted again this week by the Post, Yang said he had since left Wanda Network before the company began its lay-offs.

After dropping its overseas purchase ambition and technology goal, Wanda is realigning its businesses to traditional mall business, vowing to boost the culture and experience share in its retail outlet portfolio, Wang said in his latest speech.