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August 29, 2017

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Wanda says chairman rumors malicious

THE Chinese owners of Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment yesterday denied a report that its chairman had been detained by Chinese authorities, prompting a plunge in the share price of a Hong Kong subsidiary.

Obscure US website Bowen Press, a Chinese-language site, said on Sunday that Wang and his family were stopped at Tianjin airport last Friday as they sought to fly to London. Citing unidentified sources, it said they were released after several hours but Wang was told he could not leave China.

Wanda Group rejected the report as “malicious slander.”

The Hong Kong-listed shares of Wanda Hotel Development Co dropped nearly 10 percent early yesterday.

The issue recovered somewhat as Wanda Group released a statement saying Wang had been the victim of “vicious rumors” about supposed restrictions placed on his movements.

“Wanda Group strongly reiterates that all of these rumors are utterly baseless and have ulterior motives behind them,” it added.

But the firm’s shares dipped again in the afternoon, closing 8.09 percent lower at HK$1.59 (20 US cents) as Wanda’s denial apparently failed to completely allay investor concerns about a government crackdown on the conglomerate.

Wang is one of China’s richest businesspeople, with a fortune estimated by the Hurun Report, which tracks the country’s wealthy, at US$30 billion.

Wanda is one of the most prominent of a group of Chinese companies that have expanded aggressively abroad in recent years, investing billions of dollars in acquiring hotels, insurance companies, manufacturers of autos and robots, and other assets.

Wanda has diversified rapidly in recent years from commercial property into entertainment, theme parks, sports and other sectors, fueled by a series of high-profile overseas acquisitions.

Wanda bought Legendary last year. It acquired AMC in 2012, becoming the world’s biggest cinema operator, and added the smaller Carmike Cinemas chain last year.

That buying spree cooled last year after regulators tightened controls on outbound investment. The central bank governor said in March that Beijing needed to rein in excessive spending on foreign entertainment and sports assets that he said did little to develop China’s economy.


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