It may not be the biggest IPO in 2011, but it will be the highest-kicking one. The 1,500 Shaolin Temple, the wellspring of kungfu, is floating a new joint venture.
The city of Dengfeng, which administers the temple, is teaming up with the Hong Kong arm of China Travel Service to form the CTS (Dengfeng) Songshan Shaolin Cultural Tourist Company Ltd.
Dengfeng will have 49% and CTS will have 51%. The JV is hoping for a 1 billion yuan ($146 million) IPO in either Hong Kong or Shanghai.
The temple’s grounds, buildings and cultural heritage are not going to be part of the new company, but its 150 million yuan of annual ticket sales revenues are. Last year 1.6 million people passed through its gates.
The idea is that the new JV will promote tourism in the Dengfeng and Songshan region (in Henan province). But perhaps it will also help finance Shaolin’s expansion. Last year, Shi Yongxin, the 44-year-old "CEO monk" in charge franchised out the Shaolin name, taking over the management of some temples in Yunnan. He also has ambitions to open up in Taiwan.
The question is, does the local government want to expand the brand as a revenue stream, or is it going to use the money to improve the facilities in Songshan and, perhaps, cash in on Shaolin’s tremendous success?