Business / Industries

LeTV takes the field to form Beijing Guoan partnership

By GAO YUAN (China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-20 05:33

A subsidiary of one of China’s biggest online video companies is joining the rush by Internet firms to enter the country’s sports sector.

LeEco, the biggest arm of Shenzhen-listed online video/smartphone maker LeTV, is forming an “in-depth” strategic partnership with the Beijing Guoan soccer club.

The club, the first professional soccer club on the Chinese mainland, was formed in 1992.

Liu Hong, LeTV’s chief operating officer, said the cooperation will include club operations, branding and a training program for young players.

A source familiar with the deal said LeTV is set to buy half of the club’s ownership for about 2 billion yuan ($306 million), and the two sides are working on the details.

Guoan is currently wholly-owned by CITIC Group, a state-owned investment company.

Luo Ning, the club’s honorary chairman, said it can only make changes to its equity structure by the end of the 2016 season under Chinese Football Association rules. The season ends in November.

Guoan finished fourth in last year’s Chinese Super League, the top soccer competition on the mainland.

LeTV also signed a 100 million yuan title sponsorship deal, under which the team will be renamed Beijing Guoan LeEco Team.

In recent years, LeTV has won online broadcasting rights to a series of top-tier competitions, including the English Premier League and the National Football League in the United States.

Luo Lan, a researcher at consultancy Analysys International, said LeTV is attempting to enter more areas to boost profits by providing integrated products and services. Sports is a key part of the company’s strategy.

Chinese Internet giants have shown an increased appetite for top-tier Chinese soccer clubs, which have been sponsored mainly by real estate companies in the past decade.

In 2014, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding invested 1.2 billion yuan in Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club.

The club won the Chinese Super League and Asian Champions League last year.

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