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China's Lander reaffirms intention to invest in UK soccer club

By Chris Peterson and Cecily Liu in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-04-18 21:18

China's Lander Holding Group on Tuesday reaffirmed its intention to invest in Southampton Football Club's parent company. It was responding to reports that it was dropping the deal.

China's Lander reaffirms intention to invest in UK soccer club

 

Southampton's Steven Davis in action with Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne during the Premier League at St Mary's Stadium April 15, 2017. [Photo/Agencies] 

China's Lander Holding Group on Tuesday reaffirmed its intention to invest in Southampton Football Club's parent company. It was responding to reports that it was dropping the deal.

The announcement was the latest move in a wave of Chinese investor activity involving top-flight European soccer clubs.

Earlier this month, China's Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux successfully concluded a lengthy bidding process by acquiring AC Milan from its owner, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, for 740 million euros ($787 million), including debt.

The purchase means two of the biggest clubs in Italy's Serie A - AC Milan and rivals Inter Milan - are under Chinese ownership.

In the UK, leading clubs Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, and Wolverhampton Wanders are all Chinese owned. Birmingham City was acquired last year by a group of Hong Kong-based investors.

Lander, a Shanghai-based private-sector conglomerate, started discussions last year with Southampton's holding company, St. Mary's Football Group, with the intention of buying an 80 percent stake through Lander subsidiary Lander Sports Development.

Last Sunday, Lander Sports issued a statement, saying it was terminating plans to invest in St. Mary's Football Group. The statement cited uncertainty following changes in China's securities market and relevant policies. Various media outlets interpreted the statement as evidence that the deal was dead.

But Lander Holding Group has since said it intends to see the deal go forward, but that it will involve the unlisted parent company directly, and not be done through the subsidiary. Lander has refused to issue additional comments.

The value of the deal, and its timeline, are not known.

Southampton's holding company is owned by Katharina Liebherr, who inherited the club from her father after his death in 2010. In January, she said "any steps we do take will be in the best interests of the club".

Referring to the partnership with Lander, Liebherr said: "The Premier League is increasingly competitive; we need to keep moving forward and look to new markets for commercial growth, innovation and to share our journey. Together, we have had many years of progression and success, and ensuring this continues is the main focus of any possible partnership."

Southampton currently lies ninth in the English Premier League.

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