Dalian Wanda, the property group controlled by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin has acquired the historic Edificio Espana building in Madrid for €260 million (US$358.6 million) according to a leading Spanish politician.
The acquisition of the skyscraper, which was Europe’s tallest when it was completed in 1953, is the latest overseas deal for Wang, who is said to be China’s richest man, with a personal fortune estimated by Forbes at $15.1 billion.
Wanda is purchasing the building from Spanish banking giant Grupo Santander which had originally acquired the 117 metre building in 2006, at the height of Spain’s property boom, for 33 percent more than the amount that Wanda is paying in 2014. The transaction was confirmed by the President of the Community of Madrid Ignacio Gonzalez last week, although other sources close to the deal refused to comment.
Wanda, which is one of the largest hotel developers in China, is said to plan to convert the building into a luxury hotel and shopping centre.
Most recently, the Edificio Espana had housed apartments and offices, although it was originally constructed as a hotel. The 25-storey structure is considered to be an emblem of Madrid and a leading example of Spanish architecture in the post-war period, but it has sat empty since the previous owner’s redevelopment project ran short of funds in 2007.
Wanda’s Latest Overseas Deal
Prior to jumping into the Spanish market, Dalian Wanda had already acquired property projects in London, New York and India. The company has also been active in other asset classes, including buying the UK’s Sunseeker Yachts last year for $500 million and even picking up a Picasso at auction in New York for $28.2 million.
In 2012, Wanda led one of the first major US acquisitions by a Chinese firm, when it invested $800 million to purchase American theatre chain AMC. Established in 1988, Dalian Wanda now owns 26 Wanda Plaza shopping centres across China, 49 five-star hotels, and 730 movie theaters.
Redeveloping Downtown Madrid
Madrid’s Gonzalez explained that he had met Wang last week to “reach some agreements on investment projects,” adding that he considered Wanda’s plan to redevelop the Edificio to be an important part of a recovery plan for the Spain Square area of downtown Madrid, where the building is located.