Infront set for US listing as Wanda files for IPO of sports unit
Dalian Wanda, the China-based multinational conglomerate, has filed for an initial public offering in USA for its sports unit, which is dominated by the Infront sports marketing agency.
The IPO could fetch between $300 million and $500 million, sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters today.
Wanda made the filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for the listing, which could happen in the first half of this year. Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley are working on the deal.
The move comes a year after Wanda was reported to be considering listing its sports unit on the Hong Kong stock exchange, along with the sale of some overseas assets.
Wanda Sports Holding was formed on the back of the €1.05-billion ($1.21-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.
A government-led crackdown on overseas deals and high leverage has forced major companies like Wanda to reconsider their investment portfolios. Over the past year, Wanda has been offloading domestic and overseas holdings, including stakes in cinema operator AMC Entertainment and Spanish soccer club Atlético Madrid and a handful of property developments.
Last February, Wanda sold its 17-per-cent stake in Atlético to Quantum Pacific Group, the shipping and energy conglomerate, in a deal worth about €50 million.
A five-year naming rights deal worth €10 million a season for Wanda Metropolitano, the club’s stadium, continues, however.
Speaking a year ago, Infront chief executive Philippe Blatter stressed that the agency was not for sale, but admitted that Wanda was on the lookout for investors.
He said: “Clearly Infront is not for sale. Wanda is the major shareholder, [and] they want to keep the majority. Obviously they are being approached by different investors who say they’d like to invest into Infront or Wanda Sports. Wanda Financial Group is also looking at opportunities to find a strategic investor and if we want to do something, but clearly Infront is not for sale and is part of the strategy of Wanda moving forward.”
The Wanda Sports operation posted total revenue of 7.18 billion yuan ($1.03 billion) in 2017, a 12.3-per-cent year-on-year rise and 4.3 per cent above the target set by Wanda.
A revenue target of 9.43 billion yuan was set for Wanda Sports in 2018.