Billionaire Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man, will increase his presence in the movie industry with AMC’s $1.1 billion deal for Carmike Cinemas, creating the largest U.S. cinema chain.
AMC, which is majority owned by Wang’s Dalian Wanda Group, said Thursday it would pay $30 a share for Carmike in an all-cash deal that combines the second- and fourth-biggest U.S. movie theater chains.
With AMC’s 5,426 screens and Carmike’s 2,954, the combined company will vault past Regal Entertainment Group, the current industry leader with 7,361 screens.
“This is a compelling transaction that brings together two great companies with complementary strengths to create substantial value for our guests and shareholders,” AMC’s CEO Adam Aron said in a news release.
The deal represents a 19% premium over Carmike’s closing share price Thursday. The stock was up more than 16%, at $29.25 in trading Friday, while AMC was up 3%, at $26.54.
“Carmike has long been seen as a takeover target in the exhibition industry,” the Wall Street Journal said. “It doesn’t compete in most markets with AMC, which should ease the antitrust review.”
Wanda, China’s largest real estate developer, acquired AMC in 2012 for $2.6 billion. With AMC and Wanda combined, Wang already oversees more movie screens than any businessman in the world and he has set a goal of controlling 20% of the global film market by 2020.
In January, his company agreed in January to buy Legendary Entertainment, the independent film and TV producer that made “Godzilla,” for $3.5 billion.
“Wanda and other Chinese entertainment companies have eyed Hollywood for the past decade, eventually aiming to build global film corporations large enough to rival the likes of Universal or Sony,” the WSJ said.
U.S. movie ticket sales, while rising to a record $11.1 billion in 2015, are little changed in recent years but Aron sees room for the domestic market to grow.
“As we look at the film slates for 2017 and 2018, they look to be gangbusters,” he told Bloomberg. “This might be a perfect opportunity for AMC to get larger just as some real blockbusters hit movie screens around the country.”