AMC Entertainment Inc., the second-largest U.S. cinema chain, is in talks to sell all or part of the company to Wanda Group, one of China’s biggest exhibitors, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
A deal would value the chain at roughly $1.5 billion, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly because the talks are private. Discussions with Kansas City, Missouri-based AMC began more than a year ago and gained momentum after in April, said the person.
An accord would bring together a cinema chain in North America, the world’s biggest film market, and a top exhibitor in China, where sales grew 35 percent last year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. China is the third-largest market, behind the U.S. and Japan, according to the MPAA.
Susie Arons of Rubenstein Communications, an outside spokeswoman for AMC, declined to comment. Zhang Qi, a spokesman for Wanda Cinemas in Beijing, also declined to comment.
AMC, which reported having 347 theaters with 5,048 screens in February, is owned by private-equity groups including Apollo Investment Fund, J.P. Morgan Partners, Bain Capital Investors LLC, the Carlyle Group and others, according to a Dec. 9 filing. The New York Times reported the story earlier.
The company revived plans for an initial stock sale in July 2010, an offering that hasn’t been concluded. In 2008, when previous IPO plans were abandoned, the company formally withdrew its application in a regulatory filing, a step that hasn’t been taken this time.
Wanda operates 86 cinemas and accounts for 15 percent of China’s box-office receipts, according to the company’s website. Wanda is a unit of Dalian Wanda Group Corp., which has investments in property, hotels, and department stores.
U.S. box-office sales for 2012 were up 16 percent to $3.58 billion through the first week in May, while attendance has increased 19 percent, according to researcher Hollywood.com.
Regal Entertainment Group, the largest exhibitor, had risen 20 percent this year before Wednesday, while Cinemark Holdings Inc. is up 30 percent and Carmike Cinemas Inc. has more than doubled.
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