Variety: More Turmoil for China’s Wanda as Rumors Fly
News story originally published at Variety.com
By Patrick Frater
China’s Dalian Wanda issued a stern denial Monday following rumors that company chairman Wang Jianlin had been detained by authorities as he attempted to fly abroad. The unsubstantiated reports caused stocks in Wanda’s hotel group to swoon.
“Rumors have been spread by people with ulterior motives,” the company said in a statement. “This is not the first time. Similar ones circulated in mid-August when chairman Wang went to Lanzhou.”
The latest stories, which first emerged on a financial blog, asserted that Wang was detained by authorities when he and his family were en route to the airport in Tianjin, near Beijing, for a planned flight to Britain. The reports said Wang was prevented from leaving China and released after a few hours.
Wanda sent Variety a written statement denying the rumor. But a spokesman declined to add to the statement, and did not say whether Wang is currently in China or not. The statement threatens legal action against media engaged in spreading fabrications about the company.
Dalian Wanda, Wang’s property-to-entertainment behemoth, is not listed. But the Hong Kong-traded shares of its hospitality group, Wanda Hotel Developments, were down 8% at HK$1.59, by the stock market close at 4:30 p.m. Monday, local time. The hotel subsidiary is the only Wanda company actively trading at the moment, as Wanda Film Holdings shares have been suspended since July and Wanda Commercial Properties shares were de-listed earlier this year on Hong Kong and have not yet been re-listed in mainland China.
Despite Monday’s fall Wanda Hotel shares remain up by 72% on the month, having soared from HK$0.92 on Aug. 1. Investors looked favorably on the unit’s acquisition of a hotel management business that it bought from Wang, in yet another piece of Wanda group restructuring.
In the feverish atmosphere currently surrounding Wanda and a handful of other high-profile Chinese companies involved in overseas acquisitions, which have found themselves slapped down by the government, it is difficult to tell fact from fiction amid a welter of rumors.
In July, Wanda denied reports that state-owned investment firms had been ordered to sell its stock and corporate debt. A few days later, however, a note emerged online from a meeting between regulators and bankers showing that state-owned banks had halted lending to Wanda and its subsidiaries.
Another rumor currently making the rounds says that the heads of all major listed companies and state-owned enterprises have been effectively grounded and required to remain in China until after the upcoming Communist Party Congress. The congress is expected to take place this autumn, between August and November, but no date has been formally announced.