MILAN – A group of Chinese investors will pay 55 million euros for a 15 percent stake in Inter Milan, becoming the second-biggest shareholder of the Italian premier league football club, sources close to the situation said.
The deal will give the 104-year-old club a new stadium to be built jointly with China Railway Construction Corp, the main partner in the first such investment from mainland China in a major foreign sports team.
Asian sports marketing company QLS will take a token stake, one of the sources said.
“F.C. Internazionale welcomes the new shareholders,” Inter stated in a statement, without identifying the Chinese investors. China Railway will help build the new stadium by 2017, Inter said.
One of the sources familiar with the situation stated the deal envisages more Asian investors eventually taking stakes in Inter Milan, even though the Moratti family will retain majority control.
“The main aim is to build a new stadium, that is what the agreement with China Railway is really about,” Massimo Moratti, chairman and owner of Inter, said.
Chinese investors, encouraged by the government, have been actively pursuing overseas assets in recent years.
Some high-profile buys have included the takeover of cereal maker Weetabix by China Bright Food and an agreement by Dalian Wanda Group to purchase the U.S. motion picture chain AMC Theatres, both in May.
Inter Milan and arch-rivals AC Milan, owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, use the 80,065-seat San Siro Stadium, which was finished in 1926 and is owned by the city of Milan.
City ownership of stadiums is common in Italy but leaves clubs unable to modernise their grounds and make money out of facilities such as mega-stores and restaurants in the way Manchester United and Bayern Munich do.
“Now we must find the right location, see what can be done and in a few years’ time the fans will have their own home,” Moratti said.
Italy’s ageing stadiums have the second-lowest attendance among the “big five” European top soccer leagues, with the English Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga leading the pack.
Gate receipts accounted for just 13 percent of Serie A’s total 1.55 billion euro revenues in the 2010/11 season, according to consultancy Deloitte.
Inter have long dreamed of building a new stadium, following the example of Italian rival Juventus whose new 41,000-seater stadium in Turin, which cost 120 million euros, brought fans back to matches.
China Railway Construction has actively pursued overseas investment this year, signing two projects in Africa with a total contract value of 9.1 billion yuan.
In November last year, a consortium involving the Shanghai-listed company announced a deal to develop an iron ore mine in Guinea.
Investors from the Chinese mainland have been looking to purchase stakes in foreign sports teams, but with tiny success previously.
The Los Angeles Times reported last year that the Dodgers had received a $1.2 billion offer to purchase the city’s troubled Major League Baseball team, funded, in part, by Chinese investors.
Chinese investors launched an attempt to purchase the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team in 2009, Thomson Reuters data showed, and in 2010, news reports stated investors from China bid for Britain’s Liverpool football club.
In 2009, Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung purchased English soccer club Birmingham City.
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