In late 2017, a simple headline caught our attention. According to news from Macrolink Group’s official website as well as numerous other channels, the company has decided to invest 22 million RMB in Tencent Music Entertainment Group, with the deal being officially signed in September. Over 20 other companies, including BHG Long Hills Capital, CMBI, and BOCOM International also participated in the investment.
While the 22 million figure isn’t particularly surprising given the sheer size of both parties (Macrolink and Tencent), but the motivation behind the investment, combined with recent activities on Tencent’s end, leaves us intrigued.
On one hand, Tencent has been focusing on the diversification of its services, an example of which being China Reading. The service was founded in March 2015 through a merger between Tencent Literature and Shanda Literature. On November 8th last year, China Reading went public on the HKEx with its share price already seeing a 100% increase on the same day by noon.
Curiously, just one month before China Reading’s debut, industry insiders told Bloomberg that Tencent Music Entertainment Group was seeking another round of funding in preparation for its IPO. If successful, the Group’s estimated value will reach approximately $10 billion USD, thanks to its vast library of IP as well as Tencent‘s well-established social media infrastructure. Tencent Holdings’ president, Martin Lau, has been suggesting the possibility of the Group going public at some point, with various media outlets confirming the company’s plans to sell around 3% of its shares to strategic partners. Furthermore, Tencent Holdings has also announced back in May of 2017 that the board has passed stock option plans during an EGM (extraordinary general meeting).
On the other hand, Macrolink has been hard at work attempting to transition itself from a largely real estate-based corporation into one that focuses on cultural tourism. According to its website, the company’s current strategic focus will be now a combination of real estate, cultural tourism, and finance, an important change as the company seeks to take on the role of the developer, the operator as well as the service provider for its assets.
As consumers’ buying power rises, coupled with the increasing service integration within the entertainment industry, companies that traditionally focused on other sectors are all eyeing this opportunity to expand its business to get a share of the pie, and Macrolink has definitely shown its determination to clinch the opportunity.
Founded in 1990, Macrolink Group is a conglomerate that spans its businesses across multiple industries including real estate, mining, chemical engineering, finance, and winery. It holds various levels of shares in over 90 companies, 9 of which are publicly traded. The Group was ranked #208 on the list of top 500 companies of China in 2017 with its gross annual revenue reaching 83.3 billion RMB, a 15.97% increase from the previous year.
Macrolink Real Estate Co., Ltd., the appropriately named real estate company under Macrolink, went public in July of 2011 through a reverse takeover, aiming to integrate its core services with cultural tourism. 5 years after the company’s IPO, the company changed its name from Macrolink Real Estate to Macrolink Culturaltainment Development to more accurately reflect its change in direction. The corporation’s winery company, “JLF Investment Co. Ltd.” saw a timely name change as well, to “New Silkroad Culturaltainment Limited.”
Of course, this change is more than meets the eye. The company’s adjustment in its tourism business model led to the largest percentage of growth in both its gross revenue and profit. According to an annual report published in April last year, Macrolink Culturaltainment brought in an annual revenue of 7.5 billion RMB in 2016, an increase of 61.41%, and its growth in annual profit reached a staggering 70.35%, netting 524 million RMB.
In a semi-annual “culturaltainment” report in August of 2017, the company also showed a significant growth of 34% in its total revenue. What was more impressive was perhaps its annual net income attributable to shareholders: 186 million RMB, a massive increase of 74% from the previous year’s 106 million RMB figure, leading to many financial specialists giving the company a “strongly recommended” rating.
According to a development plan released by Macrolink, the company will be focused on 3-5 high-quality projects within the next 5 to 10 years in hopes of becoming a competitive player in the tourism industry. From recent activities, it is fairly apparent that Macrolink has been working to lay down the infrastructures to facilitate its plans both inside China and overseas.
In 2015, the company announced its plans to invest 4.5 billion RMB in projects such as the Changsha Tongguan Kiln Resort, the Pinggu Financial Center and the Jeju Island Macrolink Resort. Its ventures then moved southwest, partnering with Guangyuan city government in a joint investment-operation plan to improve experiences at various attractions around the tourism city in Sichuan province.
A year later, Macrolink continued to partner with private companies as well as local governments to pave the way for its “culturaltainment” and cultural tourism ambitions. During the same year, its 1st Chapter of the Wuhu Jiuzi Old Town project, as well as the Wuhu White Whale Sea World, officially opened to the public, and its Xining Macrolink International Tourism City broke ground, which was completed in late 2017 and opened for business in October.
2017 was a year for more non-stop development. The company’s projects in Wuhu are now undergoing expansion for future Chapters; its Shidu, Beijing projects in partnership with the local government are in the location scouting stage; the international resorts in Jeju and Malaysia are also under rapid construction.
One of the highlights out of the plethora of projects that the company is currently undertaking is the Changsha Tongguan Kiln Resort, in which the company has reportedly invested over 5 billion RMB in the past 6 years of its development, all in an effort to make Tongguan a nationally acclaimed tourism city. Macrolink’s VP told the press during an interview that the company is planning to retain total control over 60% of the property after the project is complete, with the remaining 40% being outsourced to third-party companies.
The project has been considered by many within the industry to be the keystone to Macrolink’s shift to cultural tourism. However, its progress was hindered on more than one occasion by the fluctuating prices of the corporation’s stock. The good news is that just last November, the retail spaces in Tongguan Kiln were officially open for sale, and the company sold over 500 million RMB worth of space just within the first 2 hours.
More and more companies like Macrolink are looking to invest in the entertainment industry to better cater to the ever-changing habits of consumers, coincidentally the country’s current plan for increased construction of “city clusters.” We have covered these types of “special towns” in the past ; as of today, there are 403 officially recognized “special towns” all across the country. To diversify these points of attraction, the cultural content must be fundamentally different from each other, and music is the easiest way to achieve that.
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