China’s cinema giant is moving on to James Bond yachts

“What have you done with my Sunseeker?”
“What have you done with my Sunseeker?”
Image: Getty Images / Greg Williams
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China’s third richest man, Wang Jianlin, is looking for a foothold in the global yacht industry.

Wang’s company Dalian Wanda Group, one of China’s largest commercial property developers, is looking to buy Sunseeker, Britain’s largest yachtmaker by sales. Last year, Wang, who is also the world’s largest owner of movie theaters, acquired AMC Entertainment Holdings for $2.6 billion. Wang, a yacht fan, owns a Sunseeker Predator 108 Special Edition, which was featured in Casino Royale. But the Hollywood spotlight is no guarantee of real-world returns. Here’s why:

Wang has big global ambitions for Wanda, a conglomerate with 300 billion yuan ($48 billion) in assets. By 2015, he wants to increase its assets to 400 billion yuan and double Wanda’s annual profits. By 2020, he wants one-third of Wanda’s revenues to come from overseas ventures. “Getting $30 billion from overseas is not easy, so we must build up our acquisition power,” he told (paywall) the Financial Times. “Wanda is determined to go international, and to do it fast.”

How fast is too fast? Chinese business magazine Caijing reports that Wanda’s liabilities have been worryingly high. Wanda has no problem getting loans from Chinese banks, but its business segments still need to seek public listings to help fund their expansion, Caijing says.

Considering that, the Sunseeker acquisition is a gamble. Wang wants to sell yachts to China’s growing cadre of wealthy boatmen. But some analysts warn that China’s sailing culture is still in its infancy.

Wang’s AMC acquisition is also risky. Movie ticket sales in the US are at their lowest since 1995 and are expected to remain relatively flat. That said, earlier this year, Wanda reported that AMC Entertainment was profitable again, after years of losses.

Meanwhile, Wang is still waiting on domestic business ventures to bear fruit: his retail business, started in 2007, isn’t expected to turn a profit until 2015.