Wanda to take over yacht firm, build hotel

Reuters, LONDON

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 - Page 15

Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group (大連萬達集團) said it would spend US$1.6 billion to buy most of British yacht maker Sunseeker International and develop a posh London hotel, in the latest example of a trend among Chinese companies to acquire top luxury brands.

The company yesterday said it had agreed to buy a 91.8 percent stake in privately held Sunseeker for £320 million (US$500 million) and would invest £700 million to build a 160-room luxury hotel and apartment complex overlooking London’s River Thames.

The complex will be the first luxury hotel opened by a Chinese firm overseas, Wanda said. The project has already obtained full planning consent, it added.

Chinese companies have started to acquire top international brands as a shortcut to global success. There is also growing demand for luxury in China, where new marinas line the country’s southern coast.

Set up in the 1970s, yacht builder Sunseeker employs about 2,300 people in and around Poole on the south coast of England. Following the acquisition, the firm would retain the base and existing workforce, Wanda said.

Prices for its luxury boats start at £400,000 and its new top-of-the-range 155 Yacht costs £20 million, with former Formula One boss Eddie Jordan the first customer.

Sunseeker is currently majority-owned by Irish private equity company FL Partners and has cushioned itself against the global downturn by expanding in Latin America, Russia and Asia.

Dalian Wanda, which last year bought US cinema chain AMC Entertainment for US$2.6 billion, said it expected the Sunseeker deal to close in mid-August. The remaining 8.19 percent of Sunseeker will be bought by its management.

Wanda, which has total assets of 300 billion yuan (US$49 billion), was founded in 1988. Its net profit topped 10 billion yuan last year, which the company aims to double by 2015, according to its Web site.

Wanda is following in the wake of Chinese machinery maker Shandong Heavy Industry Group (山東重工集團), which took over Italian yacht maker Ferretti last year.

In another example of the trend, the two main shareholders in upmarket holiday group Club Mediterranee, including China’s Fosun (復星), last month said they would bid to buy all the company’s shares.