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China's Dalian Wanda in talks to buy stake from Lions Gate: Bloomberg

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[December 01, 2014]  BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group Co, one of the biggest theater operators in the United States, is in talks to buy a stake in U.S. film studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Bloomberg News said on Monday.

Discussions between Lions Gate and Wanda are "at an early stage and may not lead to a deal", Bloomberg reported, citing an interview with Wanda's Chairman Wang Jianlin.

Wang's comments are the latest sign of the company's interest in making further inroads into the U.S. film industry. It comes three days after Wanda Cinema Line Co. Ltd, a movie theater company controlled by Wang, received approval for a share-offering in China in which it hopes to raise up to 2 billion yuan.

A spokesman for Wanda could not be reached for comment. A Lions Gate spokesman declined comment.

Wang, who Forbes magazine says is China's fourth-richest man, said the owners of Lion Gate "have only been willing to sell a minority stake", according to Bloomberg. He said he was also in talks about investing in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

In 2012, Wanda bought U.S. cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc for $2.6 billion, including about $2 billion in assumed debt. The deal was the largest overseas acquisition by a privately held Chinese firm and Wanda's first investment outside China.

In August, Wanda announced it had won the bid for a plot of land in Beverly Hills and would spend $1.2 billion for a development there as its "first important step into Hollywood".

Wang said his company was shifting its focus toward culture, entertainment and e-commerce, according to the Bloomberg report.

Chinese real estate developer Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties, a unit of the Dalian Wanda Group, has won approval from Hong Kong's stock exchange for an initial public offering, which could be worth up to $6 billion, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

In July, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group signed a deal with Lions Gate, the studio behind the "Hunger Games" films, to launch a subscription streaming service in China.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee in BEIJING and Lehar Maan in BANGALORE; Editing by Pravin Char)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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