Hong Kong's TomGroup is in talks to acquire a 20% stake in Beijing-based production companyHuayi Brothers - currently the largest private film producer in mainland China- according to local press reports.

The move followsthe introduction of new regulations, issued by China's State Administration ofRadio, Film and Television (SARFT), which allow foreign companies to invest inmainland film production companies for the first time. Warner Bros has alreadytaken advantage of the new rules by setting up a joint venture with China Filmand the Hengdian Group which aims to commence production at the beginning ofnext year.

Huayi, which iscontrolled by brothers Dennis and James Wang, has produced a string of hits inrecent years - mostly due to its association with hot mainland director FengXiaogang - and co-produced several films with Columbia Pictures Film ProductionAsia until the relationship soured earlier this year.

Upcoming Huayiproductions include Stephen Chow's highly-anticipated Kung-fu Hustle - co-produced with Columbia - and Feng's latest filmA World Without Thieves, on which itpartnered with Hong Kong producer-distributor Media Asia.

The company is nowplanning to bring in strategic investors and is seeking an overseas listing inthree years according to a report in the South China Morning Post.

Tom Group, owned byHong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, is involved in print and online media, outdooradvertising and sports marketing. Last year it moved into television byacquiring AOL Time Warner's controlling stake in Chinese-language channel CETV.