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China firm forays into British yacht, hotel markets
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 19, 2013

Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group announced Wednesday it will invest nearly $1.6 billion to acquire British yacht maker Sunseeker and build London's tallest residential towers.

The plans mark the latest foray by Chinese investors into the West's luxury market at a time when Europe is grappling with a debt crisis.

"This is further significant progress in the internationalisation of Wanda Group," the company, whose interests range from property to tourism and retail, said in a statement.

It said it will spend 320 million pounds ($500 million) to buy 91.8 percent of Sunseeker.

The remaining shares will be bought by Sunseeker's existing management "at the same price Wanda offers", the company said, adding it would keep all staff at the British firm after the acquisition concludes.

The takeover has won approval from the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning agency, and will be completed "soon", it added.

It will invest another 700 million pounds to construct a "super five star" hotel and residential complex in Wandsworth in west London, including two 200 metres (660 feet) towers -- billed as the tallest of their kind in the city.

"The world's luxury hotel market has been occupied by foreign brands and there have been no Chinese five-star hotels overseas," Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin said in the statement.

"Wanda has decided to be the pioneer and change this situation," he said, adding the company plans to build hotels of its own brand in eight to 10 "major cities throughout the world" within the next decade.

The announcement came after the firm, owned by one of China's richest men, last year agreed to acquire cinema chain AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion. Chinese media reported Wanda would pay an additional $500 million after the takeover.

Wanda, which has total assets of 300 billion yuan ($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 website.

China is encouraging its companies to buy up assets around the globe, seeking to diversify the portfolio of its foreign exchange stockpile, acquire resources and expand its share of world markets.

The country's overseas investment in non-financial sectors in January-May rose 20 percent year-on-year to $34.3 billion, according to the latest figures announced Tuesday.

In one of the most high-profile acquisitions, privately owned Chinese auto maker Geely bought Sweden's Volvo Cars from Ford Motor in 2010 for $1.5 billion.

The two main shareholders in upmarket holiday group Club Mediterranee, including China's Fosun, said last month that they would make a bid to buy all shares in the company.


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