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Wanda considers deeper health-care push with hospitals in China

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Billionaire Wang Jianlin's property-to-entertainment conglomerate is weighing a push into private health care in China, tapping into a rapidly growing multi-billion dollar industry in the country.

[SHANGHAI] Billionaire Wang Jianlin's property-to-entertainment conglomerate is weighing a push into private health care in China, tapping into a rapidly growing multi-billion dollar industry in the country.

The chairman of Dalian Wanda Group Co is considering setting up a chain of hospitals, he told Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait Wednesday during a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The comments suggest Mr Wang may dive deeper into health care than the partnership his company announced with International Hospitals Group last year, when Wanda said it would invest 15 billion yuan (S$3.1 billion) to build three hospitals. The number of private hospitals in China surpassed that of public ones for the first time last year, providing an opportunity for Wanda to leverage the commercial properties it already owns.

Mr Wang said people in China are pursuing healthier lives and Wanda has the capability to tap into the emerging private health-care industry.

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"Our biggest advantage is owning a chain of hundreds of commercial complexes, which means our team has the capability," Mr Wang said.

Mr Wang said a change of Chinese policies have allowed private enterprises to enter the health-care sector. The government aims to expand the health-services industry to more than 8 trillion yuan by 2020. Revenue from China's private hospital industry will probably triple to US$90 billion by 2019, according to estimates by market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

China has encouraged private investment since at least 2009 to complement its overcrowded public system, and in recent years the government has provided more concrete policy support such as freeing up doctors from public-hospital jobs, and treating private and public outfits equally in terms of licensing, insurance coverage and academic research.

Mr Wang also highlighted his online-to-offline business - called FFan - which brings digital access to brick-and-mortar merchants. Unlike the current e-commerce businesses that thrive as traditional retailing declines, FFan will let traditional merchandisers grow after linking them with the internet, he said.

Wanda had 150 million active members and signed partnerships with almost 1,800 large commercial centres, and many other small merchants, movie theatres, hospitals and hotels, according to a statement from the company. Mr Wang said he expects the business will make profit next year.

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