China Film Group, China's Largest Film Company, Announces $739 Million IPO

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A Chinese national flag flutters on the Pearl River near a construction site in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on March 27, 2014.

China’s largest film company, the state-run China Film Group, is gearing up for a massive $739 million initial public offering ahead of a listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

China Film made its announcement in a Monday filing with the China Securities Regulatory Commission, detailing a plan to sell 25 percent of the company for a total of 467 million new shares, the Wall Street Journal reports. No exact date has been announced. The Beijing-based company plans to use this new influx of capital to pay off debt and invest in new digital-projection technology.

No company has as large of a presence in the Chinese film industry as China Film Group. The company doesn’t simply produce and distribute films. China Film imports and exports foreign releases, runs movie theaters across the country and even manages talent for industry professionals, the Hollywood Reporter notes.

Recently, China Film has taken one of its biggest moves, investing for the first time in a Hollywood production. The company made an “eight-figure” investment deal with Legendary Entertainment for its upcoming films “Seventh Son” and “Warcraft.”

Shares of the company can only be purchased by Chinese investors, Variety reports, but China Film’s IPO is still fascinating for its insight on the Chinese film industry. China Film reported a 2013 revenue of $677 million, largely the same as 2012, but a large increase from 2011’s $510 million. In 2012, it reported a $88.7 million profit, a 9 percent increase from 2011. In 2013, however, profits fell 24 percent to $67.7 million.

China Film blames the slipping profits on a 2012 agreement between the United States and China that gave more revenue from imported films to American studios. Distribution makes up 58 percent of the company’s income, and foreign films make up a large but declining percentage of the Chinese box office, so a shift on these terms would explain the decrease in profits.

For all the insight the IPO provides, it almost didn’t happen. The Chinese government shut down its IPO channel in October 2012 and only in early 2014 allowed firms to issue public stock under new guidelines, resulting in a huge backlog of Chinese companies eagerly awaiting government approval for their IPOs.

China Films’ IPO comes at a time of explosive growth for the Chinese film industry.

China’s box-office grosses have been growing at least 25 percent annually, hitting $3.6 billion, with an estimated a take of $5 billion for 2014, according to the Hollywood Reporter. (Deadline estimates a slightly more modest $4.5 billion.) To meet growing demand, China added more than 5,000 screens in 2013 alone, Variety reports. The U.S. box office, by comparison, is expanding at a significantly smaller pace, hovering at $10.9 billion in 2012 and 2013, up slightly from 2011’s $10.1 billion. By the end of the decade, China’s box office could eclipse the United States’.

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