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LEISURE: Wanda Hires from Disney, Google in Global Talent Hunt

Bottom line: China’s Wanda Group will continue a recent trend of hunting for top global talent to build its growing entertainment empire, as it seeks to challenge the likes of Disney.

The aggressively expanding Wanda Group is filling up its ranks with foreign-trained China veterans as it tries to challenge the likes of global names like Disney (NYSE: DIS) with moves into the movie and theme park spaces. Now the company is going on a major shopping spree for top talent from some of those companies, led by new reports that it has just poached a top Disney theme park executive to head its own theme park division. At the same time, other reports are pointing out that Wanda also recently hired Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) former top China executive to help lead its Internet division. Read Full Post…

China News Digest: October 18, 2016

The following press releases and news reports about China companies were carried on October 18. To view a full article or story, click on the link next to the headline.

  • Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) Files Patent Suits Against Meizu in US, Germany, France (Chinese article)
  • US Approves NXP (Nasdaq: NXPI) to Sell Standard Products Business to China Buyer (GlobeNewswire)
  • Wanda Hires ex-Disney (NYSE: DIS) Exec to Lead Theme Park Drive – Source (English article)
  • Qunar (Nasdaq: QUNR) Resumes Relationship With Airlines After 3 Month Break (Chinese article)
  • Suntech Announces Withdrawal from EU Price Undertaking (PRNewswire)
  • Latest calendar for Q3 earnings reports (Earnings calendar)

ENTERTAINMENT: Spurned by Paramount, Wanda Settles for Sony

Bottom line: Wanda’s new production tie-up with Sony Pictures will provide movies for its cinema chains in  China and globally, but could become a drag on its theater operations if the films are poorly received.

Wanda opens new resort in Hefei

Just days after receiving a major setback to its plans to invest in Paramount Pictures, Chinese Hollywood wannabe Wanda Group has just announced a film production tie-up with Sony Pictures. This particular deal looks decidedly like a consolation prize for Wanda, which is trying to build up a diversified entertainment empire similar to Disney (NYSE: DIS).

The company was bidding for a stake in Paramount, one of the top 6 Hollywood studios, after the studio said earlier this year it wanted to sell a strategic stake in itself. But Paramount ultimately reversed that decision following an internal battle for control of the company’s parent Viacom, leaving Wanda out in the cold. (previous post) This new Sony tie-up doesn’t involve any equity swap, and instead looks mostly like a relatively routine co-production deal that is becoming quite common between Hollywood and Chinese partners. Read Full Post…

ENTERTAINMENT: Wanda in Yet Another Mega-Park Investment

Bottom line: Wanda’s recent steam of announcements for multibillion dollar deals, including the latest for a $10 billion entertainment complex in Shandong, are mostly hype, and many will never get completed.

Wanda announces new multibillion-dollar project in Shandong

It used to be that I would get quite excited on seeing the word “billion” when used in connection with new investments, since such major sums are relatively rare. But these days the word is becoming almost a cliche in China, and one of the most egregious abusers of the figure is real estate and aspiring entertainment giant Wanda Group. True to that tendency, Wanda and its increasingly chatty chief Wang Jianlin have just announced yet another multibillion-dollar investment, this time for an entertainment complex in the industrial city of Jinan in eastern China’s Shandong province. Read Full Post…

Shanghai Street View: Honing Hospitality

Pudong canal town rolls out welcome mat

I had a sense of deja vu on reading about a plan to develop a scenic river town near our new Disney Resort into a bed and breakfast (B&B) district as a way to raise local living standards while providing some alternate housing options for park visitors. Then I remembered writing a few years ago about a similar plan to transform an aging but colorful area of Hongkou District near my home into a similar B&B hotspot.

These kinds of plans are great in theory, as they raise living standards by helping local residents to upgrade their aging homes into thriving businesses. Such plans also help to restore old architecture and can create unique communities with their own individual personalities, like the bustling Taizifang area. Read Full Post…

Shanghai Street View: Disney Doodads

Long lines, no attractions for irate Disney visitors
Long lines, no rides for irate Disney visitors

Two stories from our 2-month-old Shanghai Disneyland are taking center stage in this week’s Street View, one involving some irate visitors who had to wait in long lines for attractions that were closed, and the other a campaign to rid our subways of Disney balloons. But the real story here is the fact that our new Disney Resort has been relatively scandal-free in the 2 months since its grand opening in June, which seems like a major accomplishment due to the huge attention it’s attracting.

As a longtime reporter who formerly covered Disney, I can say with authority that the US entertainment giant is a magnet for publicity, both negative and positive. Any sort of accident or other negative thing that would normally be considered quite minor suddenly becomes major news when it happens inside a Disney resort, which undoubtedly causes numerous headaches for the company’s public relations team. Read Full Post…

NEW ENERGY: Tesla Closes in on China Plant, Shanghai in Sight?

Bottom line: Tesla will announce a joint venture production facility in Shanghai within the next 1-2 months, and could see its China sales pick up sharply after its more affordable Model 3 reaches the market next year.

Telsa eyeing China home in Shanghai?
Telsa eyeing China home in Shanghai?

Just a week after Disney (NYSE: DIS) launched its newest theme park in Shanghai, media are saying that new energy car superstar Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) is also eyeing China’s commercial capital as the location for a new production base costing up to $9 billion. We should note from the start that the potential partner mentioned in the reports, the Shanghai government-owned Jinqiao Group, has denied the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for such a deal. But in this case I trust the source of the story, Bloomberg, more than the Chinese officials who have a track record of denying reports that later turn out to be true. Read Full Post…

LEISURE: Crowds, Prices to Challenge Shanghai Disney after Festive Opening

Bottom line: The new Shanghai Disneyland may ultimately need to lower prices and control admittance to avoid negative publicity that could hurt its image, forcing analysts to lower some earlier bullish forecasts for the resort.

Shanghai Disney opens with fanfare
Shanghai Disney opens with fanfare

I do feel like I’ve written just a tad too much about the new Disney (NYSE: DIS) Resort here in Shanghai, which has just held its carefully scripted grand opening with surprisingly few glitches or negative publicity. But then again, the $5.5 billion investment is likely to be the largest for China this year, and Disney has averaged less than one new park per decade since opening its first Disneyland in Los Angeles in 1955. And based on previous experience, the new Shanghai Disney resort may also land at the center of at least a few minor scandals before it finally finds a more stable long-term footing, which could include a tempering of initial bullish profit forecasts. Read Full Post…

Shanghai Street View: Experiencing History

Big queues haunt Shanghai Disney
Big queues haunt Shanghai Disney

Shanghai’s past and future are center stage in this week’s Street View, the former represented by an exhibit on one of our city’s most famous historic families and the latter by this week’s opening of our new Disneyland theme park in Pudong.

I attended “The Soong Sisters: Special Memories” exhibition shortly after it opened last month, hoping to learn more about 3 of Shanghai’s most famous figures in the early 20th century. Separately, I visited the new Shanghai Disneyland (NYSE: DIS) a few days before its official opening this past Thursday, in a different quest to understand what is likely to become one of China’s top tourist attractions of the 21st century. Read Full Post…

LEISURE: China Hot on Disneyland Buzz, Cool on High Prices

Bottom line: Shanghai Disneyland will suffer from teething problems in its first year, most notably negative publicity due to high prices in the park, but will gradually overcome that resistance to become one of Disney’s most profitable resorts.

Shanghai Disney set for strong opening
Shanghai Disney set for strong opening

Everyone is buzzing about the looming opening of Disney’s first mainland China resort, so I thought I’d weigh in with my own forecast for the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disneyland set to formally open this Thursday. In addition to all the facts and figures flying about, my assessment includes a personal visit to the newest Disneyland over the past weekend for a preview visit ahead of the grand opening. I thought the crowds would be restricted during the preview period to give a good impression to visiting reporters and VIPs, but was slightly surprised to find the place quite packed. But more on that shortly. Read Full Post…

ENTERTAINMENT: Wanda, Disney Spar Over Snow White

Bottom line: Wanda’s intellectual property clash with Disney is a minor glitch in its big theme park aspirations, but highlights the many difficulties the multibillion-dollar initiative will face.

Wanda, Disney tussle over IP infringement

After days of trash-talking global theme park giant Disney (NYSE: DIS), Chinese entertainment aspirant Wanda is suddenly on the defensive after a Disney character was spotted greeting visitors in its newly launched Wanda City mega-entertainment complex in the interior city of Nanchang. The bigger context to this story is that Wanda desperately wants to attract attention to its new plans to build more than a dozen theme parks, many costing more than $1 billion, in its bid to become China’s own homegrown Disney. But Wanda has discovered that publicizing its plans isn’t quite as easy as it thought, even as media feast on the grand opening in 2 weeks of China’s first Disneyland resort in Shanghai. Read Full Post…