News Corporation is acquiring a 19.9% equity stake in Chinese studio Bona Film Group, directly from the studio’s founder and chairman Yu Dong.
Yu increased his stake in the company to 42% earlier this year, by buying shares from long-term venture capital investor Sequoia Funds, following a listing on the Nasdaq in 2010.
He recently restructured his stake by acquiring 1m shares from SIG China Investments, 1m from Matrix Partners China Funds and 1.5m from Sequoia Funds, at an average price of $11.40 per share, or $5.70 per American Depositary Share. Following the close of all these transaction, his stake will stand at 27%.
“We are thrilled to receive this strategic investment from News Corporation,” said Yu. “As one of the leading film distributors in China, we are committed to bringing the best quality Chinese films to broad audiences around the world. News Corporation’s extensive global reach, investment and distribution will help accelerate our strategy to expand our global footprint.”
He continued: “Since our IPO in 2010, we have developed our business significantly and we believe now is the time to diversify our ownership structure by introducing select strategic investors. This is an exciting period of growth for China’s film industry, and we look forward to exploring the international commercial opportunities for Chinese films with our new partner.”
Jack Gao, senior vice president News Corporation and CEO of News Corporation China Investments, said: “One of Bona’s unique advantages is its vertically-integrated business model, which differentiates the company from other film distributors in China.”
“China’s film market is growing at a rapid pace, positioning the country to be the second largest film market following the United States, and Bona’s market leadership, compelling value proposition and tremendous growth potential make this an attractive opportunity for News Corporation.”
In 2010, News Corp restructured its Star TV business to focus on India after hitting regulatory hurdles in China.
Bona recently announced that is opening a 3D production centre in Tianjin which would produce two 3D films with Tsui Hark, the director of hit martial arts epic Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate 3D.
The company also has an ambitious production slate for the coming year, including gangster thriller The Last Tycoon, starring Chow Yun-Fat and Sammo Hung; Charlie Yeung’s Christmas Rose, produced by Tsui Hark and starring Aaron Kwok, and Overheard 3.