After failing three times previously, Dalian Wanda Group is taking another stab at listing its mall management unit on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Zhuhai Wanda Commercial Management filed an application proof for a Hong Kong initial public offering last Wednesday. The subsidiary of China’s largest commercial developer oversees 472 mainland malls with a gross floor area under management of 65.6 million square metres (706.1 million square feet).
Wanda Commercial had let its third application lapse in April of this year, with Chinese regulators in June requesting more information pertaining to the company’s related-party transactions and dividend policy.
If the unit is not listed by the end of this year, Wanda Commercial and Dalian Wanda Group will have to buy back all the pre-IPO shares and compensate for investment returns at an estimated overall cost of RMB 40 billion ($5.5 billion), according to credit agency S&P Global Ratings.
Racing the Clock
Once foreseen by analysts as making a $3 billion return to a Hong Kong bourse it had spurned in 2016, Wanda has struggled to drum up investor interest in its mall portfolio and at the same time fulfil hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore obligations.
Bloomberg reported last week that the group led by billionaire Wang Jianlin had rustled up enough cash to repay a $275 million private-debt facility that matured Wednesday, but Wanda faces another test in the weeks ahead with a $400 million bond coming due.
Wanda also suffered a fresh setback last week when China’s securities watchdog suspended a planned bond issue of Dalian Wanda Commercial Management, the group’s main unit, which in June had seen RMB 1.98 billion ($278.18 million) worth of its shares frozen by a Shanghai court.
In April, S&P and fellow rating agency Fitch put Dalian Wanda Commercial Management on negative watch for a potential downgrade, citing risks associated with the uncertain IPO path of the mall unit.
While Wang once ranked as China’s richest man, the soldier-turned-tycoon has been selling off stakes in some of Wanda Group’s listed entities in a bid to right the financial ship.
On 19 April, Shenzhen-listed Wanda Film Holdings announced that its controlling shareholder, Wanda Investment, planned to reduce its stake in the company by up to 3 percent or 65.38 million shares. The value of that stake sale was around RMB 953 million ($138 million) based on the stock’s closing price that day.
That disposal followed Wanda Cultural Industry Group’s March sale of 2 percent of its stake in Wanda Film via bulk trading, which raised RMB 583 million. Wang serves as the ultimate controller of both Wanda Investment and Wanda Cultural Industry Group, with the two stake sales providing him with potential gross proceeds exceeding RMB 1.5 billion.
In January, Wanda pledged its 65 percent stake in Wanda Hotel Development, representing its entire ownership in its Hong Kong-listed hospitality investment division, to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings as collateral for a loan.