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Wanda Chairman Wang Says “Major Deal” Coming Friday; Is Paramount In Play?

Dalian Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin has set the speculation wheel spinning with comments he made Tuesday at Oxford University. The billionaire mogul said the Chinese conglomerate is poised to announce a “major deal” on Friday, Bloomberg reports. The Chinese group’s Wanda Cinema Line Co. unit was halted from trading in Shenzhen today pending announcement of an acquisition.

Given the company’s mega-acquisitions of the past few years, when Wang speaks, it’s cause to pay serious attention. There are a number of possible targets for Wanda, which earlier this month gained U.S. regulatory approval for its $3.5B purchase of Legendary Entertainment and in 2012 spent $2.6B to buy AMC Entertainment. Much of the focus right now is on Paramount, especially because of the timing. On Tuesday, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman announced that he has been “approached by several potential strategic investors in Paramount” and is “pursuing a transaction with a strategic minority investor.”

Wang has previously shown interest in Hollywood studios, saying in December 2014 that he wanted to buy Lionsgate or MGM — and was engaged in talks for a minority stake in Lionsgate. Neither deal advanced, but Wang also said at the time, “Many people come knock at my door, but Wanda is only interested in the big players and we want control.” Wang has also previously noted that buying “a well-known U.S. company” would help its overseas distribution. Another potential Paramount suitor, however, would appear to be Jack Ma’s Alibaba. The two partnered on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation last year with Alibaba making its first investment in a non-Chinese movie. Middle Kingdom box office was a healthy $136M.

Wanda, which also owns Australia’s Hoyts Cinema chain, is also known to have been shopping for a European exhibitor. Although Wang was speaking in the UK yesterday, he indicated the deal unveiled Friday would not be set there.