Dalian Wanda to buy Swiss sports firm for $1.2 billion amid entertainment push

By Reuters

Feb 10, 2015 05:41 AM EST

China's Dalian Wanda Group Co signed a 1.05 billion euros ($1.2 billion) deal to buy Swiss sports marketing firm Infront Sports & Media AG, and said it plans to acquire more overseas companies this year to deepen its push into sports and entertainment.

The acquisition will see Wanda Group, China's largest property developer which also controls the country's largest cinema chain, take a 68.2 percent stake in Infront, which focuses on distributing media rights for broadcasting sports events including the soccer World Cup and several Olympic winter sports.

Three unidentified Chinese and global investors will take the remaining minority stake, Wanda executives told Reuters. Infront generated about 800 million euros in revenue last year.

"This purchase allows Wanda to become a global leader in the sports industry in a single bound," Dalian Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin told reporters after a deal signing ceremony in Beijing.

"In addition to Infront, Wanda will buy at least two cultural companies this year," he added, without giving details.

Reuters had reported that Wanda would buy Infront earlier this month.

The purchase from London-based private equity group Bridgepoint comes a few weeks after Wanda announced a 45 million euro investment in Spanish soccer champions Atletico Madrid, its first overseas sports deal.

The group, which controls China's biggest commercial real estate developer, Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co., is aggressively expanding overseas to move away from China's property market, which has been hit by a slowing economy and a series of cooling measures.

Revenue at Wanda's culture division, which includes U.S. motion picture theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and Wanda Cinema Line Corp, China's biggest movie theater company, more than doubled last year to 34 billion yuan ($5.5 billion).

Wang said he expected the unit's revenues to rise further to around 45 billion yuan this year.

Infront was awarded by FIFA the exclusive sales rights to broadcast packages of its events from 2015 to 2022, which will include two soccer World Cups.

Bridgepoint bought Infront for about 550 million euros including debt in 2011. Wang said he wants to eventually list the company, adding: "the timing will be decided by Infront rather than me."

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