Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin could soon play a part in giving Disneyland Paris some competition in the French capital.
A partnership led Wang’s Dalian Wanda Group plans to invest more than
€$3 billion (US$3.3 billion) in a retail and leisure development project outside Paris, which will take on the theme park run by Walt Disney in the euro zone’s second-largest economy.
EuropaCity will be built 10km northeast of Paris by 2024. It will be the biggest single investment project in Europe to date, including a theme park, show stage, hotel, retail stores and conference centres, the company said in a statement.
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“For us, it is the most important project outside of China,” Wang said in the statement, without giving more details on the size of the investment.
The project, which spans more than 80 hectares, will also provide about 20,000 jobs during construction and 14,000 after it opens, according to the statement.
EuropaCity could add to the challenges facing Disneyland Paris, which needed a bailout in 2014 to upgrade its facilities and reverse a slump in attendance.
For Wanda, which runs theme parks across China, cinema chains in the United States and a soccer club in Spain, the move represents a renewed overseas push, underscoring Wang’s increasingly global ambitions.
The conglomerate agreed in January to buy film producer Legendary Entertainment – one of the US production companies behind The Dark Knight, Jurassic World and Godzilla films, for US$3.5 billion, paving the way for the tycoon to become the first Chinese person to control a Hollywood film company.
READ MORE: Wang Jianlin’s deal for Legendary shows he means business when it comes to film
The France-based shopping centre developer, Immochan, is overseeing the project.
Immochan is an arm of Auchan, a family-owned supermarket operator.
Wang is also interested in potentially buying Amaury Sport Organisation, a company that runs cycling’s Tour de France race, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The billionaire, who is China’s richest person, has set his sights on beating Disney in the theme park business.
In January, he told executives that visitor arrivals and revenue at Wanda’s tourism projects in Wuxi and Guangzhou will beat those of Disneyland in Shanghai and Hong Kong, respectively, according to a transcript of the speech posted on the company’s website.
Already this year, Wanda announced a US$2.3 billion investment in three hospitals, the formation of a financial group and the signing a US$10 billion development deal in India, in addition to the Legendary acquisition. Wanda has said it’s planning five major acquisitions in 2016 -- three of them overseas.
Wang’s investments in Europe include Spain’s Atletico Madrid soccer team and Swiss marketing company Infront Sports & Media.
Wanda is seeking acquisitions to bolster growth as the group braces for falling sales from its main property business. That has prompted Wang, estimated by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index to have a fortune exceeding US$26 billion, to increasingly look toward expanding his entertainment business.
Wang’s film, tourism and sports operations all fall under Wanda’s fast-growing Cultural Industry Group, which saw revenue climb 46 per cent last year and is forecast to climb 30 per cent in 2016.
By comparison, Wanda Group estimates overall sales rose 19 per cent in 2015 and will probably decline 12 per cent this year because of the slump in its property business.
Additional reporting Reuters