Dalian Wanda in £921m Odeon takeover

One of China’s wealthiest men is about to become the world’s largest cinema operator with the £921m acquisition of the UK’s Odeon cinema chain.

AMC Entertainment, the US chain which is owned by Dalian Wanda’s Wang Jianlin, is buying the group from Guy Hands’ Terra Firma, which invested in the chain 12 years ago.

The deal includes £407m of net debt, which will be paid for in both cash and equity.

Odeon operates 244 cinemas in the UK and Europe, with more than 2,200 screens, which would make AMC one of the world’s largest cinema owners, with more than 7,600 screens worldwide and 627 cinemas.

Odeon will continue to be headquartered in London and will operate as a subsidiary of AMC.

AMC chief executive and president Adam Aron said: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to acquire Europe’s leading cinema chain and create the world’s biggest and best theatre operator.”

He said there were uncertainties created by Brexit, but added: “We are encouraged that current currency rates are highly favourable to AMC, with the pound falling to a three-decade low versus the dollar.”

Odeon chief executive Paul Donovan said: “In recent years, Terra Firma has supported our new management team and our transformation strategy, and so established a solid financial footing for the company. We have created strong momentum. We are looking forward to introducing many of AMC’s ground-breaking guest experience strategies and working with them on long-term initiatives to give our guests the best cinema hospitality experience in Europe.”

Guy Hands, chairman and chief investment officer at Terra Firma, said: “We are delighted to realise our investment in Odeon and UCI after 12 years of ownership. In that time, over £600m was invested in growing the business and delivering our long-term transformational strategy. Under Terra Firma, the number of Odeon and UCI screens increased from 1,453 in 2004 to 2,236 today, and the business has emerged as Europe’s leading cinema operator.”

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