Beijing-based distributor Polybona is entering the international sales arena by taking a 51% stake in start-up sales outfit Distribution Workshop, established by Hong Kong film industry veterans Nansun Shi and Jeffrey Chan.

Distribution Workshop will handle projects that Polybona has invested in - the company has been quietly moving from acquisitions to investment over the past few years - and will also handle third-party productions. An announcement on the outfit's initial slate is expected before Cannes.

'It's an independent operation but there are synergistic advantages to both sides,' Chan told Screendaily. 'Polybona usually only acquires Chinese rights to the projects itinvests in, but now has leverage to buy more territories. Their aim is to become a key investor and initiate projects by themselves.'

The move is part of a corporate restructuring for Polybona ahead of an overseas stock market flotation late next year.

The company is being folded into a new holding company, Bona International Film Group, that will encompass four divisions: Polybona (distribution and production finance), Bona Yinglong (talent management), Bona Cineplex Investment and Management (exhibition) and Distribution Workshop (international sales).

Chan, who formerly headed international distribution at Media Asia, will serve as COO of the new holding company. Board members include Polybona CEO Yu Dong, Infernal Affairs producer Nansun Shi and SIG Asia Investment managing director Tim Gong. US-backed venture capital groups SIG Asia Investment and Sequoia both invested in Polybona last year.

Chan and Shi also act as consultants for Beijing-based J.A. Media - which has established its own international sales operations with their help - and have one more year remaining on those contracts.

In 2007, Polybona distributed or co-distributed 20 films, with total revenue reaching $55.6m (RMB400m). It opened its fifth multiplex in December 2007 in Xian City.