China’s Wanda Group converts AMC stock to permit sales of its shares

People walk outside the newly boarded AMC 34th Street 14 movie theater as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 4, 2020 in New York City.

Noam Galai | Getty Images

China’s Wanda Group, the major shareholder in AMC Entertainment Holdings, conducted a share conversion to permit sales of its stock in the cinema operator, a target of the recent WallStreetBets retail frenzy, AMC said in an exchange filing.

Wanda America Entertainment, a Wanda unit, converted its Class B common stock in AMC to Class A shares on Feb. 1 “in order to permit sales of its common stock,” AMC said in the filing to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on Feb 5.

The filing did not give details on the amount of stock converted to Class A shares or say whether Wanda had sold any shares in AMC. Wanda did not immediately return a request for comment.

AMC shares touched $17.25 on Feb. 1, almost quadrupling from a week earlier, as social media platforms such as Reddit fueled frenetic retail buying into heavily-shorted stocks such as AMC and GameStop.

AMC shares plunged 41% the next day and the stock is now down about 60% from its Feb. 1 peak.

The social media-fueled trading frenzy has cooled over the past few days as U.S. financial regulators scrutinize GameStop’s Reddit-driven stock surge.

Wanda, whose businesses range from real estate to entertainment, bought a majority stake in AMC in 2012 for $2.6 billion, in what was then the largest overseas acquisition by a privately-held Chinese company.

In 2018, the once-acquisitive Chinese conglomerate trimmed its exposure to the U.S. cinema operator amid tighter regulatory scrutiny by Beijing over Chinese companies’ overseas expansion.

Wanda still owns a controlling stake in AMC, according to the group’s website. Wanda also owns Hollywood producer Legendary Entertainment and Australian cinema chain Hoyts Cinema, the website said.