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IRONMAN-owner Wanda Sports Group kick-starts IPO process


Wanda Sports Group has filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in connection with a proposed initial public offering (IPO). The company, which encompasses the IRONMAN Group as well as sports agency Infront and a number of other spectator sport brands, has applied to list on the NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol ‘WSG’.

Headquartered in Beijing, China, Wanda Sports Group has more than 60 offices and 1,600 employees around the world. It was formed in late 2015, following the acquisition of IRONMAN, by China’s Wanda Group, for US$650 million.

Rumours about Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group working on a proposed IPO for its sports businesses have been circulating for over 18 months. The IPO would help Wanda Group meet debt repayment deadlines; and, it has been seen ‘as part of efforts to rationalize [the group’s] portfolio’.

A report on NASDAQ, citing IPO specialist Renaissance Capital, noted that the IPO is looking to raise up to US$500 million. Meanwhile, initial media reports in early 2018 indicated that Wanda Group, which has a diverse portfolio across the sports, property and entertainment categories, had hoped to raise up to US$1 billion via the share sale.

It should be noted that the number of Class A ordinary shares to be offered and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined. While the size of Wanda Sports Group’s IPO is listed as US$500 million, this is likely to be a placeholder amount that is subject to change.

Wanda Sports Group generated US$1.3 billion in revenue in 2018. This encompasses all of the firms operations – from the IRONMAN Group, to Infront and a diverse range of sports properties, such as basketball.

Since becoming part of Wanda Sports Group in late 2015, IRONMAN in particular has been notably acquisitive, particularly up to the summer of 2017:

More recently, with the IPO looming, there has been no let-up for IRONMAN, which has confirmed a mix of acquisitions, multiple new event announcements, alongside a handful of event cancellations:

So, in summary, IRONMAN has clearly not stood still while the wheels of its IPO have got in motion.

In parallel with an array of event announcements, and acquisitions, over the past 12 months, the brand has confirmed multiple sponsor partnerships and alliances. Notable among these are the tie-up with Amazon at last year’s IRONMAN World Championship and a partnership with Facebook for live coverage of IRONMAN events.

Going forwards it will be interesting to see if IRONMAN enters into a ‘bedding-down’ phase as it settles into life as a publicly traded entity, post IPO – or if its expansion path will continue unabated.



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