After China's curbs on Wanda, investors fret about fate of rivals

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s curbs on overseas deals by property giant Dalian Wanda Group have raised investor fears that Beijing’s campaign against risky investments abroad could target other Chinese firms and the operations of their foreign acquisitions.

FILE PHOTO - A sign of Dalian Wanda Group in China glows during an event in Beijing, China March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

Chinese banks were told to stop funding several of Wanda’s overseas acquisitions, sources said on Monday, unnerving investors and hitting shares in companies seen as potential targets in the clampdown.

Shares in retailer Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd 002024.SZ tumbled on Wednesday after the state broadcaster cited its 270 million euro ($311 million) purchase of Italy's Inter Milan soccer club last year during a show about what it called "irrational" overseas deals.

Foreign firms that were bought by Wanda have sought to soothe concerns that their businesses could take a knock.

Wanda-owned cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc AMC.N and Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment said on Tuesday they were insulated from the Chinese regulator's curbs.

Shares in AMC, bought by Wanda for $2.6 billion in 2012, fell 10 percent on Monday, although they recovered slightly on Tuesday.

China’s state planner said on Tuesday it aimed to curb irrational foreign investment in the drive that started last year and focused on deals in real estate, entertainment and sport. China is also cracking down on risky lending before this years key Communist Party congress.

Wanda, led by one of China’s richest men, Wang Jianlin, is among several Chinese firms that have expanded overseas in areas beyond their original business.

Wang defended his firm on Wednesday at an event to announce details of the sale of some theme parks and hotels. “I really can’t see what benefit there is for those people who have recently been spreading rumors to harm Wanda,” he said.


AMC said in a statement on Tuesday that four deals to buy cinema chains completed between 2015 and 2017 year were fully paid for by its own funds and loans from U.S.-based banks.

“At no time was Wanda ever a source of funding for any of these acquisitions or individual theater purchases,” AMC said, adding it had “never received committed financing from any bank headquartered in mainland China for any purpose.”

Legendary, bought by Wanda last year for about $3.5 billion, said it was “well capitalized with liquidity to fund its film and TV slates and operate its business as usual”.

Investor nervousness has extended beyond Wanda and its units. Suning’s shares wobbled when the state CCTV show cited its purchase of Inter Milan as an example of risky overseas deals.

The CCTV show also mentioned property developer Sunac China 1918.HK, which has made a series of large investments over the last year, and referred to a deal by a Chinese consortium to buy Italian soccer club AC Milan this year.

Suning’s vice chairman Sun Weimin told local media his firm “strongly supported” Chinese policies on overseas investment and said the firm’s push overseas was to bolster its market back home. Suning declined to comment further.

Curbs on Wanda, announced at a meeting in June, focus on six deals abroad where lenders have been told not to provide finance or not to allow Wanda to use offshore assets as collateral for financing, an internal bank document seen by Reuters showed.

Wanda, a major property developer, has been reining in some of its more ambitious undertakings.

It said on Wednesday it would sell 77 hotels to Guangzhou R&F Properties 2777.HK for 19.9 billion yuan ($2.95 billion), altering terms of an agreement announced last week.

It will also sell 91 percent of 13 “cultural” projects to Sunac for 43.8 billion yuan, up from 29.58 billion yuan.

Wanda also scrapped a $1 billion deal to buy Hollywood firm Dick Clark Productions Inc in March this year.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan in Shanghai and Shu Zhang in Beijing; Additional reporting by Kane Wu in Hong Kong, Pei Li in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Edmund Blair