China's Suning buying majority stake in Inter Milan for $307 million

Mon Jun 6, 2016 10:49am EDT
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By Adam Jourdan

NANJING, China (Reuters) - Chinese electronics retailer Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd 002024.SZ is buying nearly 70 percent of Italian soccer club Inter Milan for 270 million euros ($307 million), in the highest-profile takeover so far of a European team by a Chinese firm.

Suning, part owned by e-commerce firm Alibaba BABA.N, confirmed the deal on Monday at a joint news conference in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing with Inter Milan executives, including current majority owner and president Erick Thohir.

With Chinese President Xi Jinping an avid supporter of soccer, Suning's deal to take control of Inter Milan is the latest step in a broad plan to create a global sports empire stretching from soccer clubs to online broadcasting.

Suning, a household name in China, already owns domestic club Jiangsu Suning, currently third in the Chinese Super League, but this is its first major overseas purchase.

"The acquisition of Inter Milan is part of Suning's strategy in the development of the sports industry," said Zhang Jindong, chairman of Suning Holdings Group, which plans to subscribe to new Inter Milan shares and buy existing shares.

"This will... help Suning to grow internationally."

A person familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier that Suning would take a 68.55 percent stake in the Italian club.

The soccer club said Thohir would stay on as president and become the sole minority shareholder in Inter Milan, while former president Massimo Moratti will sell off his entire stake of just under 30 percent in the club.   Continued...

A security guard keeps watch before a news conference with Chinese retailer Suning and Italy's Inter Milan in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China June 6, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song