China’s Wanda Sells Theme Parks to Sunac in $9.3 Billion Deal

Deal marks a major setback in company’s plans to become country’s answer to Disney

Wang Jianlin Dalian Wanda China
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Dalian Wanda Group’s dreams of becoming China’s answer to Disney are fizzling.

The company, led by Wang Jianlin, is selling 13 Tourism City projects, including theme parks, and 76 hotels to real-estate developer Sunac China Holdings Limited in a $9.3 billion deal, both companies announced Monday.

The deal, said to be the second-biggest real-estate deal in China, is supposed to be completed before July 31, but the brands, development plans and operations of the properties will remain unchanged. Wanda will remain responsible for the projects’ operations management.

The deal includes $4.4 billion worth of tourism projects across China, including the cities of Qingdao, Guangzhou, Harbin, Chengdu and Kunming. Sunac is receiving a 91 percent stake in these projects and the transfer will be used to pay off loans on these projects.

The deal marks a major step back in Wanda’s ambitions to be a major player in the theme park sector. Last year, Wang announced plans to build at least 20 location-based tourism projects across the country and said that his “wolf pack” of theme parks would give Shanghai Disneyland a run for its money.

The statement did not include a reason for the sale, but Wang said in an interview with Chinese business publication Caixin that the deal would reduce Wanda’s debt and the company plans to pay off its bank loans by the end of this year.

Wanda’s buying spree, particularly in Hollywood, was largely affected when regulators decided to take a closer look at the financing arrangements of some of its biggest international dealmakers.

Wanda’s would-be $1 billion purchase of Dick Clark Entertainment was derailed by capital controls and regulatory issues, as TheWrap exclusively reported in February. Last year, regulators also foiled the company’s plans to fold unprofitable Legendary into its publicly-traded cinema business, leading Wanda to eventually suspend the plan — and former Legendary CEO Thomas Tull to exit. Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of Anbang, has also been detained by government authorities and off the job since June 8.

Monday’s statement also mentioned a comprehensive strategic cooperation including film. Wanda has already been buying equity stakes in certain films, including Benedict Cumberbatch’s upcoming “The Current War” and last year’s “Lion.” Wanda also owns the AMC Theaters chain.