Dalian Wanda Group will significantly accelerate the opening of Wanda Plaza malls in China from 2018, the head of the Chinese conglomerate said on Tuesday in a forum.
"We have a marvelous plan. The group aims to expand the number of Wanda Plaza sites to about 1,000 within a 10-year period starting next year, which means the opening speed will increased by a large scale," Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, told a forum in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province.
Currently, the group has about 230 plazas across China.
Wang said the foot traffic target for the plaza opening for one year is 20 million on average, and the total foot traffic of Wanda plazas is expected to reach 13 to 15 billion in total, covering above 90 percent of the cities across the country.
The chairman said before 2016, the group opened at most 25 new plazas per year, but in 2016 and 2017, it opened more than 50 per year.
It has been months since Wang has appeared in public, with the company reportedly experiencing cash problems and selling off assets around the world to compensate.
Wanda Group has been under heavy pressure for closing down its malls over the past few years amid plummeting revenue and for forcing vendors to evacuate without proper notice or compensation. Department stores in China have been facing tough competition from a growing number of online shopping platforms.
Wanda decided to shut down more than half of its 90 department stores by July 2015 and the remainder were downsized or had their operations adjusted, according to a report on the domestic news website sohu.com on June 5.
In closing down the stores, Wanda declined to pay compensation to some vendors and even employed security guards to evacuate vendors who refused to leave, the report claimed, citing several vendors and witnesses.
The Financial Times reported earlier this month that Wanda is planning to sell a majority stake in Wanda's Hong Kong-listed arm and put more of the group's core assets directly under Wang's supervision.
However, the group on Thursday rebuffed claims of cash flow problems, saying that it had not defaulted on debt anywhere in the world and that its operations have been normal this year.
Wang said at the forum that the impact of e-commerce is quite small for Wanda. He also said that artificial intelligence will be a core part of its development.
Wang added that the company will expand cooperation with Suning Commerce Group Co next year.