China's golden era of red-hot expansion may be over, but the real estate sector still stands to see sustainable double-digit growth, according to the billionaire behind shopping mall developer Dalian Wanda Group.
"While we are unlikely to see super-fast yearly growth of 30-40 percent as we've seen in the past, I expect a sustainable and steady growth rate of 10 percent that's likely to persist for the next 10 years," Wang Jianlin, chairman of the Beijing-based property and leisure conglomerate, told CNBC's "Managing Asia."
After years of rapid development, the mainland's property sector is now at a "turning point", with supply set to outpace demand, the 60-year-old said.
Dalian Wanda, China's biggest private property builder, is best known for its signature Wanda Plaza shopping malls, which house movie theatres, supermarkets, as well as a wide range of domestic and international fashion brands. There are currently 104 Wanda Plazas across the 111 cities in the mainland. Meanwhile, its property arm Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties completed a $3.7 billion initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong last December, marking Asia's largest listing for 2014.
Disneyland, watch out!
After China's property space remained in the doldrums last year amid declines in new home prices and property investment growth, Wang – China's wealthiest man according to Forbes 2015 billionaires list – plans to focus on upscale entertainment and tourist-focused facilities. Since the Chinese conglomerate dipped its toes into the venture four years ago, it has seen an annual growth rate of 40 percent, Wang told CNBC.
"I would like to build an integrated and diversified cultural empire. For the past four years, we've been generating revenues exceeding expectations hence I'm very confident of reaching top five in the global market," he said. "By 2020, my goal is for revenue to surpass $16 billion."
Dalian Wanda has invested over 135 billion yuan (approximately $21.5 billion) in cultural resorts across China, according to Reuters. Last December, it opened a new billion-dollar movie theme park in Wuhan; it plans to construct 15 more.
This massive push into the leisure sector comes as bigger and more established foreign rivals like Walt Disney, DreamWorks Animation and Universal Studios are moving onto its home turf. But, the former member of the People's Liberation Army, is confident that his "secret weapons" can help the firm withstand the stiff competition.
"We have invested in more than 10 massive projects all over China, with content and ideas that our competitors will never have. So we have sufficient confidence, that at least in China, we can defeat Disney and Universal Studios," Wang said.
The development of both indoor and outdoor theme parks, as well as having a sustainable investment model, will also help Dalian Wanda to gain the upper hand.
"One powerful edge we have [is that] we use the profit from our property sales to fund our next projects. But for Disney and Universal, they have to keep buying new land so they don't have the financial advantage that we have," said the Chinese mogul.
The transformation of Dalian Wanda also involves overseas expansion as it diversifies away from a cooling Chinese economy. Last year, the company bought land in California's Beverly Hills and also made plans for a hotel, residential and commercial project near Chicago's Millennium Park.
By 2020, Wang hopes that the firm's overseas revenue can account for one-fifth of its targeted total revenue of $100 billion.
"Actually, our biggest plan in terms of global initiative is in the cultural and entertainment industry, where we aim to become a major force to be reckoned with. We have a great appetite for cultural, entertainment, media and sports industries," he told CNBC. "For property, we're just aiming to have our high-end hotels in major cities around the world."
— Reporting by Christine Tan | Written by See Kit Tang