Peel strengthens Chinese ties

Film studio operator Pinewood Shepperton, 58% owned by Peel Group, has signed a 50:50 joint venture agreement with Seven Stars Media, part of a large privately owned media group in China.

The joint venture, called Song Lin, will explore "a number of business proposals in the growing entertainment market in China." Pinewood said it would provide expertise and "limited capital investment".

The proposals include providing co-production opportunities for film and television producers; creation of film and television diploma courses to be delivered by UK educational institutions in Beijing, Tianjin and four other cities; developing production financing and related services for Chinese film and television productions; a series of film themed entertainment venues in Shanghai and regionally; and creating film themed projects in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan.

Peel was the main sponsor of Liverpool's stand at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 and has since secured investment from Chinese mineral importer-exporter Sam Wa Group for its Wirral International Trade Centre.

Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement on Wednesday: "It's great to see Pinewood Studios expanding its business with the announcement of its joint venture with Seven Stars Media. The creative industries are a rapidly growing area of China's economy and will increasingly provide huge opportunities for UK companies competing in the global race. Pinewood is leading the way, taking advantage of China's thriving entertainment and media sector and building on Britain and China's growing trade relationship."

Peel's takeover of Pinewood in June 2011 prompted market speculation that it might build a further studio facility at Media City UK in Salford Quays. The derelict dockland sites of Liverpool Waters and Wirral Waters could also provide suitable sites if a North of England development materialises.

Seven Stars is one of the largest and fastest growing media conglomerates in China, with operating subsidiaries and joint ventures in Hong Kong, Europe, UK and the United States.

Ivan Dunleavy, chief executive of Pinewood, said: "The Chinese market for content is the fastest growing in the world and taking Pinewood's experience and skills to that market in partnership with such an established and successful local partner is a truly exciting prospect. The joint venture brings together two companies with significant experience and will provide a conduit for film and television productions to maximise their impact in China. The partnership with Seven Stars, under Bruno Wu's direction, represents a strategic step forward for Pinewood's international development. If successful, the joint venture could provide significant opportunities for UK film and television producers."

Bruno Wu, Seven Stars' chairman and chief executive, said: "Together with Pinewood, we have identified a significant number of business opportunities for the short, medium and long term. The joint venture will aim to improve the standard of media production, create co-production opportunities for Chinese producers and export Chinese film and television content overseas. Our local knowledge and scale combined with Pinewood's unique operational skills and international reputation will enable our joint venture to participate in China's content explosion."

Buckinghamshire-based Pinewood is listed on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange.

Shares in Pinewood were flat at 273.5p.

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