National domination can be an expensive ambition, especially in the world’s most populous country. So far, this has not hampered Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, chairman and major shareholder of Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group, in turn the major shareholder of Hong Kong-listedDalian Wanda Commercial Properties. By its own assertion, Wanda Group is China’s largest developed-property owner, with more than 20m sq metres, as well as being the world’s largest cinema chain operator, with more than 500 cinemas.
But Mr Wang’s ambition does not stop at properties and cinemas. This week Wanda Group said it would expand into financial services. A new division, to be built through mergers and acquisitions, will include banking, securities and insurance. The move may make strategic sense. Wanda Group owns more than 100 Wanda Plazas in China, which house everything from offices to shops. So the company (much like online rival Alibaba) has visibility on merchant businesses which could enable it, for instance, to assess credit-worthiness for loans.
The expansion could help Wanda Group’s growth ambitions in other ways, too. The company has announced its targets for 2020: it aims to double its assets to $160bn (or to $200bn, for readers of the English version of the website — what is 20 per cent between languages?) and increase revenues by 150 per cent. This will require money, even if Wanda Commercial Properties brings in more partners to co-fund its developments. With the A share markets in turmoil, Wanda Commercial Properties has already been raising funds in novel ways, includingcrowdfunding several malls. Wanda Group itself has raised loans against 83m Wanda Commercial Properties shares, worth more than $600m. Adding an insurance arm would give the group funding from premium income, similar to Berkshire Hathaway andFosun.
The company also gave another target: a market capitalisation of $200bn for the group’s listed assets, up from $50bn now. This will not just comprise upside for existing listed vehicles. Expect more listings ahead.