CEFC takes 60% stake in Slavia Prague

Updated: 2015-09-08 08:54

By Emma Gonzalez(China Daily)

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CEFC China Energy Company Ltd, considered the country's sixth-largest private company, has made its latest investment in the Czech Republic, taking a majority 59.97-percent stake for an undisclosed sum in SK Slavia Prague, one of the central European nation's oldest soccer clubs.

CEFC closed a series of strategic agreements in the country last week, including the acquisition of two buildings in the capital Prague's historic center, and a stake increase in the Czech-Slovak investment group, J&T Finance.

The remaining stake in Slavia Prague will be controlled by Fly Sport Investments, a private company owned by Czech businessman Jiri Simane.

Officials at CEFC, which has previously focused on the energy and financial services sectors, said the investment would ensure the stability of a club that has been struggling financially in recent years.

They expect the acquisition to spearhead other plans to expand its investment activities in the country.

CEFC also plans to support Czech football by becoming a partner of the national team and youth football setup, "to promote cooperation between China and the Czech Republic", said the Chinese company in a statement. CEFC becomes the second major Chinese company this year to invest in European soccer.

Andrew Collins, chief executive officer at Shanghai-based technology and social media agency Mailman Group, said investing in a soccer team "can demonstrate a company's commitment to the community, which may be supporting a broader strategic investment in the region".

In January, real estate giant Wanda Group Co bought a 20 percent stake in leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid for 45 million euros ($52 million), becoming the first Chinese company to invest in a major European soccer team.

"It looks like Chinese companies are seeking to buy into European soccer clubs for marketing purposes," said Bradley Williams, an Asian Studies professor at the City University of Hong Kong. "This could be seen as a form of economic soft power, if the investments are raising corporate awareness and possibly sales in the European markets."