Chinese financial regulators have ordered the country’s biggest banks to stop making loans to billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda to finance foreign entertainment acquisitions, according to a document seen by The Wall Street Journal.
The paper said on Monday that the country’s banking regulators had met with executives of China’s state-owned lenders on June 20 and had advised them that six of Wanda’s foreign acquisitions, including the acquisition of Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion last year and 2012’s buyout of AMC Entertainment, were “subject to government capital restrictions enacted last year.”
Other Wanda deals included in the order were U.S. exhibitor Carmike Cinemas, European cinema chain Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group, Nordic Cinema Group and UK yacht maker Sunseeker International.
Four of these deals have already closed but the two that haven’t – Odeon and Nordic Cinema Group – are being acquired via Wanda’s AMC unit in the U.S., which trades on the New York Stock Exchange and therefore doesn’t appear to fall under China’s regulatory jurisdiction.
By blocking Wanda’s access to local bank loans, it would appear to prevent the company from getting new financing in connection to deals already closed and would further cloud financing for the two deals not yet closed, a source told Wall Street Journal. It said the Chinese government is “preventing the company from using funds parked in the mainland to further finance any of these deals,” placing a big question mark over the future of the pending deals for the European exhibition chains.
This reported blocking of lending to Wanda appears to shed light on the company’s surprise decision to sell 76 hotels and 91% of 13 tourism projects to developer Sunac China for $9.3 billion, in it what is believed to be the Middle Kingdom’s second-largest property deal ever. At the time, Wang told Chinese financial daily Caixin that funds would be used to reimburse most of Wanda’s bank loans, resulting in an “asset-light” operation.
Last week, the company revealed plans to consolidate it Chinese film businesses with Wanda Film, the division that was re-branded from Wanda Cinema Line earlier this year. While specific financial details and further information is not set to be revealed until August 3, Legendary Entertainment is believed not to be included in the mix that’s being listed.
In March 2016, Wanda had said it planned to merge Legendary into its Wanda Cinema line but the $5.6 billion deal to fold it into the publically traded division never went through. The company at the time cited changes in market conditions and interests of minority shareholders.