(Adds background, context)
SYDNEY, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Australia’s Hoyts Group said on Tuesday it has been sold by its private equity owner Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) to an investment vehicle set up by Chinese entrepreneur Sun Xishuang.
Hoyts, Australia’s second-biggest cinema operator by number of screens, said the billionaire chairman and large shareholder of Chinese property group Dalian Yifang bought Hoyts through his company ID Leisure, based in the British Virgin Islands. Financial terms of the sale weren’t disclosed.
The sale ends a busy year of exits for PEP, Australia’s largest private equity firm, as it has seized on appetite for businesses seen as benefiting from the country’s record low interest rates, low unemployment and relatively buoyant equity market.
PEP had engaged investment bank UBS AG to run a dual-track sale process for the 450-screen chain throughout 2014 including the possibility of an initial public offering that sources close to the process said would seek to raise about A$900 million ($731 million).
But after several weak recent listings and confirmation U.S. video streaming giant Netflix Inc will open in Australia in March, sources said PEP was still considering a private sale for the company it bought from a consortium including Australian casino billionaire James Packer for A$440 million in 2007.
The sale also extends a run of large cinema acquisitions by Chinese interests seeking to expand globally. In 2012, China’s Dalian Wanda Group bought American No. 2 cinema chain AMC Theatres, which has 5,000 screens, for $2.6 billion.
A PEP spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
$1 = 1.2317 Australian dollars Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Sunil Nair