BEIJING/HONG KONG - Wang Jianlin plans to raise as much as US$6 billion (S$7.8 billion) from selling shares in Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co Ltd (IPO-DWC.SS: Quote, Profile, Research), to help fund the expansion of an empire built at speed using cheap government land.
China's fourth-richest man with a net worth of $13.2 billion, according to Forbes, has opened 100 Wanda Plaza mixed-use developments from 21 just four years ago. Wang is aided, he has said, by land bought at half the price others would have paid, from authorities betting on his ability to boost local economies.
Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties is now China's largest in the sector with 178 projects in 112 cities across 29 provinces, many anchored by malls and hotels alongside office and residential towers. On Monday, it won approval in Hong Kong to conduct the biggest initial public offering (IPO) in Asia Ex-Japan in four years.
But the approval comes at a time when an industry slump is pulling down earnings, and while eight so-called Wanda Cities - massive multi-projects - exacerbate its debt burden.
"Dalian Wanda has a lot of projects and they all need money," said a person familiar with the listing plan, who was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter so declined to be identified. "After the IPO, it can also issue bonds which will help lower funding costs."
Wang has tried to list Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties before. Regulatory reasons scuppered a Hong Kong IPO in 2005, and its application in Shanghai lapsed earlier this year with the bourse saying submitted documents were out of date.
Wang, a former member of the People's Liberation Army, now plans to take the developer into the world's 10 largest cities over the next decade, beginning last year with Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Madrid and Gold Coast.
"China's outbound investment is an inevitable trend," Wang told the APEC CEO Summit in November.
Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties, in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, said net profit fell 47 per cent in January-June to 4.97 billion yuan ($807.93 million) due to a decline in the fair value gain of its properties.
Revenue fell 27 per cent in the same period after rising 70 per cent over 2012 and 2013, when it peaked at 86.8 billion yuan. It said the fall came as it completed fewer residential projects and because selling prices declined following a years-long government campaign to stop prices spiraling.
Current liabilities rose 21.7 per cent in January-June alone to 219.36 billion yuan. Its gearing ratio - or debt compared with owners' equity - reached 87.8 per cent from 53 per cent at the end of 2013, though its debt-to-asset ratio was 51.6 per cent.
Credit-ratings firm Fitch Ratings in November pointed to Wanda Cities being a "cash drain" but said they were "positive to Wanda" in the longer term.
"There is a good potential for Wanda City projects to become famous tourist spots and this can enhance Wanda's brand image," Fitch said.
Wang, 60, will remain controlling shareholder after the IPO. He also heads Dalian Wanda Group, the developer's parent, which wants to raise overseas sales to 20 per cent by 2020, while increasing revenue to $100 billion from $30 billion.
"We take the initiative and have bargaining power," Wang told students at Harvard University in 2012. "Our cost of land acquisition is much cheaper than other companies."
Dalian Wanda Group includes Wanda Cinema Line Co Ltd, which on Friday won approval to raise up to 2 billion yuan ($325.41 million) in a domestic IPO. It also includes Hong Kong-listed Wanda Hotel Development Co Ltd (0169.HK: Quote, Profile, Research), which changed its name from Wanda Commercial Properties Group Co Ltd in October.