Bona Film Group Takes First Step Towards China IPO

Beijing-based distributor and producer Bona Film Group took the first concrete step towards relisting on China’s A-share market this week, just over a year after it retreated from the NASDAQ.

On Wednesday, the company announced it had filed the necessary documents required for a stock market listing with the Xinjiang Securities Regulatory Bureau and had received confirmation from the regulator.

The company, which was the first Chinese entertainment company to be listed on a U.S. bourse in 2010,  is receiving guidance from investment bank CITIC Securities (中信证券) to list domestically.

Bona CEO Yu Dong decided to delist the company after it only managed to raise $100 million after five years on NASDAQ — far less than rival companies were raising on China’s booming stock markets.

“Huayi’s [Brothers] total valuation was 13 times ours at the peak,” Yu explained to China Business News in April last year. “Local investors took no notice of Bona.”

In December 2015, Yu joined a consortium to take Bona private with Alibaba Pictures, Sequoia Capital, and Fosun International. Other partners included Tencent affiliate Willow Investment, Fosun affiliate Orrick Investments, SAIF Partners, and All Gain Ventures.

Bona Film Group is involved with film distribution, production, exhibition, and talent representation in China. The company currently operates 41 theaters with 336 screens across China and has a slate financing deal with Twentieth Century Fox and TSG Entertainment. Bona was a co-financier on Fox’s The Martian.

It has production and distribution credits including Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk, the Chinese remake of Bride Wars, and The Taking of Tiger Mountain. In February, Bona Film Group. signed a 30-theater deal with Imax, making the distribution company one of IMAX’S top five exhibitor partners in China.

A Bona IPO would be the first major bow since last year when both China Film Co. and Shanghai Film Group went public in two of the largest share floats in the history of the Chinese entertainment industry.

However, China’s box office earnings slowed down further in the first quarter of 2017, following an annual increase of only 3.7 percent in 2016 — a trend which could test the enthusiasm of local investors for entertainment industry properties.