Dalian Wanda owner eyes the UK's Odeon cinema chain

Wang Jianlin, China's richest man who operates Dalian Wanda, the world's largest cinema chain, is reported to be the UK's Odeon cinema group, which is set to go under the hammer for at least £1 billion.

The UK brand has around 2,000 screens mostly in the UK and also has major player in Spain, Italy and Germany.

The purchase of Odeon would bring the UK cinema chain under Jianlin's AMC, an operator of about 5,000 screens in the US that he bought for £1.7 billion.

Jianlin's conglomerate also recently bought Australian cinema company Hoyts for over £400 million, in addition to acquisition of UK yacht maker Sunseeker for £320 million.

In 2011, Odeon, which is owned by Guy Hands' private equity firm Terra Firma, had planned to sell it for £1.2 billion but found no takers. However, this time around Hands was looking to leverage the chain's improving competitive position.

A management shakeup at Odeon left the company in ''fantastic shape for a bid,'' cityam.com reported.

After acquiring Odeon in 2004, Terra Firma merged it with rival chain UCI to counter heavy losses. The merged entity delivered a pre-tax profit of £14.5 million for the first half of this year and had tried to sell Odeon twice before; in 2011 and then again in 2013.

Not everything had gone smoothly for Hands in recent years and in 2007 Terra Firma and its backers lost the £1.7 billion they put into the £2.4-billion acquisition of EMI.

Four Seasons Healthcare, Terra Firma's largest investment since EMI, has been struggling with payments of over £50 million a year on debts of more than £500 million. This summer it  launched a financial review as losses increased to £26 million in the second quarter.