China’s Wanda Group is in talks with AMC Entertainment to buy part or all of the US exhibitor’s shares, according to sources close to the Chinese company.

The sources told Screendaily that negotiations started several years ago but intensified at the end of last year. Wanda, a Dalian-based real estate group, owns the Wanda Cinema Line which has risen in the past three years to become China’s largest exhibition circuit.

Wanda’s spokesmen said they were not informed about the talks or a possible deal and Wanda Cinema Line vice president Liu Ge declined to comment when questioned by Chinese media.

However, Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin hinted at the deal in a speech he made at Beijing’s Tsinghua University in April. Wang told his audience that Wanda will have a major international merger next month “that will surprise the world”.  He added that there may be another big international transaction in the first quarter of 2013.

Wanda Cinema Line, which operates 86 cinemas and 730 screens, recently applied to China’s Securities Regulatory Commission for an IPO on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Wanda last year signed a 75-theatre joint revenue-sharing agreement with giant-screen operator IMAX, which was IMAX’s first full revenue-sharing agreement in China. Wanda currently owns 47 IMAX screens.

Last year, Wanda Group also established Wanda Media to handle film and TV production and distribution. Industry analysts said that if Wanda acquired AMC, it would help the company’s Chinese-language productions enter the notoriously tough US market.

Wanda Media is one of the backers and producers of Keanu Reeves’s directorial debut Man Of Tai Chi, which it is co-producing with Village Roadshow Entertainment Group Asia and China Film Group.