Sports / Soccer

Negotiation stepped up as Suning eyes Inter Milan stake

By EMMA GONZALEZ (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-03 03:11

Top executives from Italian soccer club Inter Milan will travel to Nanjing over the weekend to speed up negotiations for the sale of a majority stake in the club to China's Suning Commerce Group, according to a source familiar with the matter.

It would be the second visit by an Inter Milan delegation to China in less than a month.

In May, Inter Milan's CEO Michael Bollingbroke and other company delegates visited Suning's headquarters in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

According to the source, who declined to be named, Suning Chairman Zhang Jindong is now interested in acquiring a majority stake of up to 70 percent of Inter Milan. Earlier reports said he was only bidding for 20 percent.

Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport said that if the negotiations are successful, a preliminary agreement could be signed as early as Sunday evening.

Inter Milan is said to be valued at about 500 million euros ($557 million), but market speculation suggests that Suning may spend as much as 700 million to 750 million euros to seal the deal.

Suning is also rumored to be in pole position to buy UK-based Stellar Group, one of the world's leading soccer agencies.

Model carmaker Rastar Group and property developer Evergrande Group have also entered the battle for the agency.

The successful bidder could be willing to spend 900 million yuan ($136.6 million) in acquiring Stellar, the agency responsible for the transfer rights of top international players.

Retail conglomerate Suning, which has annual revenues of $20 billion, owns the Jiangsu Suning men's and women's teams in China.

The company also has the broadcast rights for more than 300 games in China, including matches in the English Premier League and Spain's La Liga.

"Such acquisitions are a show of intent and a positioning statement," said Simon Chadwick, professor of sports enterprise at the University of Salford in the UK.

"China wants the world to know that it means business. Acquiring such clubs also brings with it some political influence."

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