ANIMATION

China’s leading animation company Alpha shells out US$140m to buy No 1 online comic book site

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 August, 2015, 3:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 August, 2015, 8:19pm

China’s leading animator has inked a deal to buy the country’s largest online comic website, the company revealed on Tuesday night.

Guangdong Alpha Animation and Culture, which owns the copyrights for the enormously successful Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf animated TV series in China, said it is finalising details on the 904 million yuan (US$140 million) deal to acquire U17.com as part of its ongoing digital and online push.

According to the terms of the deal, Alpha, the first listed Chinese animation company, will pay 576 million yuan in currency and the rest in stock. China Renaissance Capital acted as the exclusive financial advisor for the deal.

Alpha runs toy, animation and game businesses in China, where it distributes for major international toymakers like Hasbro and Mattel. 

It also owns the copyrights for popular series like Bernard, a Spanish-South Korean-French animation named after its cuddly polar bear hero. 

Over 20,000 cartoonists update more than 40,000 comics to keep U17.com at the top of its game, the website claims. It has 5 million registered users.

China’s animation industry has been going from strength to strength in recent years. 

A recent study at Sichuan University, in the west of the country, showed that in 2014, its gross output value reached an estimated 100 billion yuan.

The study also showed that 13 animation companies, led by Alpha, each enjoyed annual output value of over 100 million yuan last year.

Alpha started out as a toy manufacturer in 1993 but eventually transformed into an internet comic giant after a series of global collaborations. 

Last December, it bought 19.99 per cent of Hollywood hot shot Michael Bay’s 451 Media Group to gain distribution and merchandising rights for the group’s properties in Asian markets like China, Singapore and Thailand. Bay is best known in China for directing the Transformers movies. 

In the same month, Alpha invested US$60 million in Los Angeles-based New Regency Productions, another cross-border strategic partnership that involves it pouring money into expected Hollywood blockbusters. 

Last month, the company acquired 10 per cent of Chinese internet TV operator Shenzhen Powerise Home to compete with domestic giants like LeTV and build on its established industry chain.

The global animation industry was worth US$222 billion in 2013, with the United States, Canada, Japan, China, France, Britain, South Korea and Germany ranking as the biggest players, according to a study by Research and Markets.