Investors poised to score with Inter deal
Updated: 2012-08-03 02:26
By Zheng Yangpeng and Ding Qingfen (China Daily)
Italian soccer giant says group to acquire 15 percent stake
A group of Chinese investors are set to play a key role in one of the world's most famous soccer clubs, according to media reports and a statement from the club.
However, one of the investors linked to the deal has denied any involvement in purchasing shares but said it will be involved in building a new home ground for the club.
The deal will see the investors pay 55 million euros ($67 million) for a 15 percent stake in Italy's Inter Milan, a statement from Internazionale Holding said.
The deal, if finalized, will mark the first time that Chinese investors have entered the global sports industry arena, experts said.
"The Moratti family will keep control of the company while the group of Chinese investors will become the second-largest shareholder," Inter Milan's statement, which was released on Thursday, said.
Media reports said on Thursday that "Chinese investors" valued the Italian club at 500 million euros and will acquire a 15 percent stake.
Reports also said the investors include China Railway Construction Corp Ltd, and Hong Kong-based QSL Sports Ltd, a sports investment company.
But China Railway Construction, China's largest engineering contractor, denied on Thursday night it was part of the investment deal.
"Our company has not been involved in negotiations concerning the buying of the club's shares," the statement said.
Yu Xingxi, spokesman for China Railway Construction, confirmed to China Daily that "neither the listed company nor the parent company has been involved in the 15 percent stake purchase".
According to the statement, China Railway Construction will build a new stadium for the club by 2017. "In the upcoming months the parties will jointly select potentially suitable locations, define the project team and start the filing process to obtain the required authorization," the statement said.
China Railway Construction confirmed in the statement that China Railway 15th Bureau Group Co Ltd, its subsidiary, is discussing building a new stadium with Inter Milan. The company will issue a statement if the contract is signed, it said.
The stadium will have a capacity of 60,000 and construction is scheduled to start next year, Chinese media reports said. Inter currently share a home ground with AC Milan at the 80,065 capacity San Siro stadium.
The investor groups will be involved in the club's construction and cultural projects, and even in team building, China's Caixin Media reported.
"The deal would probably be the first time that Chinese corporations have invested in a foreign sports team," said He Zhenwei, an economist with the China Industrial Overseas Development & Planning Association. As part of its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the government is encouraging companies to invest overseas.
Overseas direct investment since the financial crisis has been on the rise. In 2011, China's ODI gained by 1.8 percent from a year earlier to $60 billion, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Some recent and high-profile cases include construction equipment maker Sany Heavy Industry Co Ltd's announcement to buy a 90-percent stake in Germany's largest concrete pump maker and China's largest entertainment group Dalian Wanda Group's deal to buy the US movie chain AMC Theatres.
But He cautioned that there are risks for the deal, citing the Italian club's current value.
Inter Milan failed to qualify for the financially lucrative UEFA Champions League this season.
China Railway Construction shares were down about 2 percent upon the news, reflecting investor concern of the deal's profitability.
But China's soccer fans welcomed the news.
"Inter Milan has a huge fan base in China. I think the deal will benefit football fans,'' said Wang Wen, president of the Beijing Soccer Fans Association.
Chinese investors have been linked to global sports clubs before.
The Los Angeles Times reported last year that the Dodgers had received a $1.2 billion offer to buy the city's troubled Major League baseball team, funded, in part, by Chinese investors.
China Railway Construction has actively pursued overseas investment this year, signing two projects in Africa worth 9.1 billion yuan ($1.43 billion). In November last year, a consortium involving the Shanghai-listed company announced a deal to develop an iron ore mine in Guinea.
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Tang Zhe in Beijing contributed to the story.