An Animated Goat, Banker Look Abroad
Veteran Hong Kong investment banker Francis Leung has his eyes set on transforming a popular Chinese cartoon brand to the leagues of Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty in his first foray into China’s animation market.
The former Citigroup Asia investment-banking chairman grabbed headlines last year when he was part of a consortium that rescued local animation firm Imagi International Holdings Ltd. from the brink of insolvency by investing in the maker of computer-animated films such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
As chairman of Imagi, Mr. Leung in late February unveiled plans to buy mainland Chinese brand manager Toon Express Group, which owns the character copyrights of “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf,” a highly successful Chinese animation series that revolves around the travails of a clumsy wolf in his quest to hunt a group of innocent goats.
To fund the 814 million Hong Kong dollar (US$104 million) acquisition, Mr. Leung arranged the sale of Imagi shares to investors including Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s CK Life Sciences International (Holdings) Inc., Larry Yung, former chairman of Beijing-backed conglomerate Citic Pacific Ltd., and Hopewell Holdings Ltd. Vice Chairman Eddie Ho.