Jul 04, 2018 04:31 AM

Alibaba, Tencent Lead $1.5 Billion Investment in CMC

Li Ruigang, founder and chairman of CMC. Photo: VCG
Li Ruigang, founder and chairman of CMC. Photo: VCG

Chinese media tycoon Li Ruigang’s CMC Inc. raised nearly 10 billion yuan ($1.50 billion) in a Series A fundraising round from a group of investors including tech giants Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings.

Dubbed “China’s Rupert Murdoch,” Li has built a media and entertainment empire that encompasses almost all of Chinese culture and entertainment and also reaches into Hollywood.

The new round of fundraising boosts CMC’s valuation to 40 billion yuan, the company said. In addition to the two Chinese tech giants, investors included property developer China Vanke Co. and China Merchants Bank’s investment arm, CMB International Capital Corp.

CMC, founded in 2006, is behind several national hit TV shows, including the Chinese versions of the long-running American singing competition series “The Voice” and celebrity talk show “Comedy Central Roast.” Chinese media have dubbed Li “the King of Content.”

CMC set up a joint venture with California-based DreamWorks Animation in 2012. The studio produced “Kung Fu Panda 3,” the first official U.S.-China animated co-production.

In February, CMC took full ownership of the joint venture, Oriental DreamWorks, and relaunched it as Pearl Studio.

CMC’s other headline-grabbing deals include a joint venture with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the world’s largest entertainment and sports talent agency representing celebrities that include Beyoncé, George Clooney, Lady Gaga and David Beckham.

In 2015, CMC and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. set up a Hong Kong-based joint venture, Flagship Entertainment Group, to produce and distribute films worldwide.

In addition to its core TV and movie businesses, CMC has entered the sports arena. It owns stakes in several soccer teams, including England’s Manchester City Football Club. It has also invested in Formula E Holdings, the official promoter of FIA Formula E Championship, the world’s first single-seater, all-electric car racing event.

Some of its sprawling investment portfolio has started to pay off. Earlier this year, Bilibili and iQiyi, two of the most popular video-sharing and streaming platforms in China in which CMC is an investor, went public in the U.S.

Bilibili, famous for displaying viewers’ comment on videos in real time, raised $483 million in an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in late March. Days later, Netflix-like video site iQiyi raised $2.25 billion in its U.S. initial public offering (IPO).

In February, CMC’s portfolio company Star China Media, the production company behind the show “The Voice of China,” filed a preliminary IPO application to China’s securities regulator.

Disclosure: CMC is the biggest shareholder of Caixin Media Co.

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