19 August 2019
EuropaCity will be built in Gonesse, a town 16 kilometers northeast of Paris. Photo: Bloomberg
EuropaCity will be built in Gonesse, a town 16 kilometers northeast of Paris. Photo: Bloomberg

Wanda said to plan massive retail-leisure project near Paris

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group Co. plans to invest billions of euros in a retail and leisure development outside of Paris, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

Wang said at the University of Oxford on Tuesday that Wanda would announce a “major deal” this week, though he didn’t provide details.

The project, known as EuropaCity, will be built in Gonesse, a town 16 kilometers northeast of Paris, between Le Bourget and Charles de Gaulle airports, according to a website for the property.

For Wanda, which runs theme parks across China, movie theater chains in the United States and a soccer club in Spain, the move represents a renewed overseas push, underscoring Wang’s increasingly global ambitions.

The conglomerate agreed in January to buy “Godzilla” producer Legendary Entertainment for US$3.5 billion, paving the way for the tycoon to become the first Chinese person to control a Hollywood film company.

Construction on EuropaCity is slated to begin in 2019, with the project opening in 2024, according to the website.

The development, being built by property company Immochan, will include a theme park, shopping center, water and snow parks, sports fields, performance spaces and hotels, according to the site.

Immochan is the development arm of Groupe Auchan, a family-owned supermarket operator. A spokesman for Immochan declined to comment.

Wang, who is estimated by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index to be worth US$27.2 billion, told executives in January that visitor arrivals and revenue at Wanda’s tourism projects in Wuxi and Guangzhou will beat those of Disneyland in Shanghai and Hong Kong, respectively.

Besides the Legendary deal, Wanda announced a US$2.3 billion investment in three hospitals, the formation of a financial group and the signing a US$10 billion development deal in India.

In addition, Wanda has said it’s planning five major acquisitions in 2016, three of them overseas.

Separately, the group’s Wanda Cinema Line Co. theater chain unit was suspended from trading in Shenzhen on Wednesday pending the announcement of an acquisition.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the group is seeking to raise US$1.5 billion from domestic Chinese investors for its closely held film-making Wanda Pictures subsidiary.

While Wang’s investments in Europe include the Club Atletico de Madrid soccer team and Swiss marketing firm Infront Sports & Media AG, Wanda’s culture-and-entertainment business has a relatively smaller presence in the region than in China.

Wang’s film, tourism and sports operations all fall under Wanda’s fast-growing Cultural Industry Group, which saw revenue climb 46 percent last year and is forecast to climb 30 percent in 2016.

By comparison, Wanda Group estimates overall sales rose 19 percent in 2015 and will probably decline 12 percent this year because of the slump in its property business.

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