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:
- In June 2017, IRONMAN acquired 100% of Competitor Group Holdings (CGI), owner of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, in a move that established IRONMAN as the ‘largest running event producer in the world’.
- IRONMAN already owns or operates more than 20 running races worldwide, including the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, ASB Auckland Marathon, Marathon Bordeaux and Across the Bay 10K.
- Alongside the delivery of premier marathons, IRONMAN has, over the years, moved into road cycling events including the UCI Velothon Majors Series, as well as mountain bike events such as the Absa Cape Epic, and Cape to Cape and Port to Port MTB races.
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:
- In recent days, it was confirmed that IRONMAN Boulder will be discontinued following this year’s edition, which took place on June 9, 2019. Going forwards, while the full-distance IRONMAN triathlon will no longer be offered, the city of Boulder will continue to host the IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder triathlon.
- Also in June, IRONMAN’s expansion in China continued. The unveiling of the new IRONMAN 70.3 Xi’an, taking place on September 15, 2019, makes it the fourth IRONMAN 70.3 event in China for 2019.
- This month has clearly been a busy one for IRONMAN, as, in early June, it acquired Manila-based IRONMAN licensee Sunrise Events, and all events in its portfolio. This includes IRONMAN 70.3 Philippines.
- Meanwhile, in late May IRONMAN 70.3 St. Pölten in Austria was discontinued, with IRONMAN’s rival Challenge Family picking up the event from 2020.
- May 2019 also saw a major acquisition for IRONMAN as it took control of the ‘world’s largest fun run’, City2Surf, in Sydney, Australia.
- In March, IRONMAN confirmed the addition of the IRONMAN 70.3 São Paulo triathlon in Brazil. Taking place on November 10, 2019 in the financial centre of Brazil, this new event becomes the fifth IRONMAN 70.3 event in Brazil.
- In late 2018, IRONMAN announced its expansion into India for the first time in company history, with the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Goa. The inaugural M-Dot triathlon in India will debut on Sunday, October 20, 2019.
- November 2018 saw IRONMAN confirm the newest addition to its Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) series in 2019 – IRONMAN 70.3 Marrakech in Morocco.
- In September 2018, IRONMAN Vitoria-Gasteiz, in the Basque Country of Spain, and IRONMAN 70.3 Traverse City in Michigan were unveiled. September also saw IRONMAN confirm the acquisition of three key races from Revolution3 Triathlon (Rev3Tri) in Connecticut, Virginia and Maine. Last September also saw expansion in France, with the unveiling of the new IRONMAN 70.3 Les Sables d’Olonne – Vendée.
- IRONMAN’s Middle East expansion continued in July 2018, with the unveiling of IRONMAN 70.3 Oman.
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.