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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd will invest 70 billion yuan (8.06 billion pounds) in a health park in China's southwest, the firm said in a statement sent to Reuters on Monday, as some of the country's biggest companies look to tap demand for private healthcare.
Wanda, headed by China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, said it had signed an agreement with the Chengdu city government to create a 'park' with two international general hospitals, eight small specialized hospitals and 30 healthcare-related firms.
The investment comes as China's public hospitals are facing tough demands from a fast-ageing population and tightening budgets as the government looks to reduce state hospitals' reliance on drug sales. This is creating space for private firms.
Wanda - whose business includes property development, shopping malls, cinema chains and theme parks - has been spending heavily on parks around China related to sports, leisure and health, to capitalise on growing middle class demand.
Rival conglomerate Fosun International Ltd is also increasing its focus on healthcare and has announced various healthcare-related deals over the past year.
China's private hospital market has been a lure for local and foreign hospital operators, though changeable regulations regarding foreign investment in the sector, a dearth of doctors and nascent private insurance schemes have slowed growth.
Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Christopher Cushing