Chinese copper firm buys owner of Hollywood's Voltage, maker of 'The Hurt Locker'

Reuters

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A Chinese copper-processing company has bought a controlling stake in the Hollywood studio behind Oscar-winning films "The Hurt Locker" and "Dallas Buyers Club", in the latest sign of China's ambitions in global entertainment.

Based in the city of Wuhu, west of Shanghai, Anhui Xinke New Materials <600255.SS> has no apparent link to entertainment or films. But it announced late on Sunday that it had bought an 80 percent stake in Midnight Investments, the holding company behind the studio, for 2.39 billion yuan ($350.71 million).

Under President Xi Jinping, China has been broadening its use of so-called soft power, and corporates have led the way with global investments in soccer, skyscrapers as well as movies. Just recently, China's property-to-entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group bought Dick Clark Productions, the company that runs the Golden Globe awards and Miss America.

Apart from Wanda - which is seeking to attract Hollywood to its new multibillion-dollar studio in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao - China's Fosun International and Huayi Brothers Media Corp have also invested heavily in film.

The latest to join this bandwagon is Anhui Xinke, whose main business is to process copper and make electric wires and cables. Earlier this month, the firm established the Wotaiji International Media Ltd unit to acquire media assets.

"I think this is a case of Chinese companies that have cash and are looking at overseas investment opportunities, and realizing that staying within their own sector does not offer a lot of room for growth," said Benjamin Cavender, senior analyst at China Market Research Group in Shanghai.

The global copper market has been mired in a years-long bear run, plunging around 40 percent over the past three years. Prices of the metal have, however, recovered 20 percent so far in 2016 on hopes of U.S. infrastructure spending and firming demand from top consumer China.

Cavender said companies like Anhui Xinke were likely keen on following the example set by firms such as Wanda with investments in crown jewel brands that will allow them to diversify their revenues and create a global brand.

But it will not be easy as "film production is very different and requires its own set of management skills that the buying firm likely does not have in-house," he said.

Midnight owns Voltage Pictures, which has produced more than 150 movies.

Anhui Xinke was not immediately available to comment, but it said in the statement that the acquisition would enable it to strengthen its position in the domestic and international film business, and would significantly boost its profitability.

(Reporting by Jackie Cai and David Stanway; Editing by Himani Sarkar)