DALIAN Wanda Group, the world's biggest owner of movie theaters, is in talks with leading Hollywood studios to co-produce films and is looking to buy and build hotels in major US cities as the Chinese firm eyes a US$10 billion "soft power" spending spree.
The privately-owned group's founder and Chairman Wang Jianlin, 58 and ranked as China's third-richest man by Forbes, said yesterday that he was talking to "well-known" hotel brands in the US for possible acquisitions, though he declined to name names.
His forays overseas - he bought US movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Inc for US$2.6 billion in September and has earmarked North America for US$10 billion of deals over a decade - are an example of China's "soft power," or cultural diplomacy, to promote understanding of China abroad.
While Dalian Wanda, a major developer of department stores and other commercial and tourism properties, has provoked little backlash over its AMC acquisition, some Chinese firms have hit strong opposition when trying to buy foreign assets. Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp were cited in October by a US congressional report as being a potential security threat.
Chinese companies should try to do something American people would appreciate, Wang said, such as investing in areas like Kansas or Iowa that really need capital.
"Chinese enterprises being able to go to the United States and acquire companies does represent a kind of soft power," he said. "But this is just the beginning. Chinese firms still lag far behind American companies. Maybe in 10 or 20 years we can stand at the same level."
Wang said his group was in talks with "hotel management companies in the US ... seeking opportunities for mergers and acquisitions." He said his firm was also talking with "the top six" Hollywood film studios and will work with three to four of them to co-finance and co-produce movies.
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