Wanda 'considers IPO' of sports unit, including Infront and Ironman
Dalian Wanda, the China-based multinational conglomerate that owns the recently-rebranded Infront sports marketing agency, is reported to be considering listing its sports unit on the Hong Kong stock exchange, along with the sale of some overseas assets.
Several sources told Reuters that Wanda approached investment banks last month over a potential initial public offering of its sports businesses, including Wanda Sports Holding, which was formed on the back of the €1.05-billion ($1.2-billion) acquisition of Infront at the start of 2015, and also houses Wanda’s $650-million investment in the World Triathlon Corporation, owner and organiser of the Ironman series of long-distance triathlon races.
Also included would be smaller Chinese sport assets, such as cycling and basketball leagues, but not Wanda’s 20-per-cent stake in top Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid, valued at €67 million, according to one of the sources.
Wanda is also considering a possible pre-IPO funding round for the sports unit, a source said, albeit plans are at an early stage as Wanda seeks a chief financial officer for the sports business to lead the fundraising efforts.
In July last year, Wanda reported a 12.4-per-cent rise in revenue to 134.9 billion yuan ($19.8 billion) for the first half of 2017.
Turnover at Wanda’s Cultural Industry Group, which includes Wanda Sports Holding and also has widespread interests in film, tourism and children’s entertainment, rose by 5.9 per cent to 30.8 billion yuan and were ahead of target. Wanda set a target of 6.9 billion yuan in revenues from its sports activities in 2017.
Revenues from sports activities rose by 9 per cent to 6.4 billion yuan in 2016.
However, the pace of the multinational conglomerate’s acquisitions spree has slowed, amid particular scrutiny of the finances of the group’s property division, and Wang Jianlin, the group’s chairman, recently injected $460 million into the overseas arm of Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties.
Regulators have been keeping a close eye on various Chinese companies following aggressive overseas spending, notably in sports and entertainment, and Wanda has been selling off various assets (albeit not in sport).
In December, Infront made a high-profile appointment, naming the European Broadcasting Union’s Julien Ternisien as director of its restructured summer sports business unit.
Ternisien, the EBU’s head of sports rights for summer sports, will assume his role at Infront by 1 May at the latest. Stephan Herth, Infront’s current executive director of summer sports, is to switch to a position focused solely on soccer, as reported by Sportcal in August.