Chinese group takes a stake in Inter Milan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:54pm

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A minority stake acquired by a group of Chinese investors in Italian football club FC Internazionale, also known as Inter Milan, may increase as China Railway Construction Corp (CRCC) will build a stadium for the club.

The state-owned firm will help build a stadium for the top Italian soccer team to burnish its construction skills to the West.

'[The consortium's] stake is likely to increase as more investors join this group,' said FC Internazionale president Massimo Moratti. 'The main aim is to build a new stadium and that's what the agreement with CRCC is really about and it's a very important one for Inter Milan. It's also important for Milan and Europe because it's the first time this [Chinese] company has made an investment in Europe.'

Moratti said the investment helped strengthen the club. 'It's also a good business deal as far as Italy is concerned,' he said. 'An investment by China, by one of the biggest Chinese groups, an investment in the stadium and at a difficult time also shows confidence in the country, in the [euro] currency.'

A group of Chinese investors including mainland-born businessman Kenneth Huang Jianhua acquired a minority stake in FC Internazionale on Wednesday to become its second-largest shareholder, while the Moratti family retains control of the company. An FC Internazionale spokeswoman declined to disclose details of the investment. The minority 15 per cent stake was worth Euro75 million (HK$714 million), reported Bloomberg, while Reuters put the stake at Euro55 million.

Late last night CRCC issued a clarification in which it denied that it or any of its 'majority-controlled companies or associated companies' are part of the consortium. But it added that a subsidiary is in talks regarding a new soccer stadium of Internazionale Milano to be built in Milan and that an announcement will be made 'when a formal contract is signed'.

FC Internazionale now shares the San Siro stadium in Milan with rival Milanese football club AC Milan.

Huang will join FC Internazionale's board in October. Huang, chairman of Hong Kong's QSL Sports, tried to acquire Liverpool football club but withdrew his bid in 2010.

Shares in CRCC dropped 3.46 per cent to HK$6.70 in Hong Kong yesterday, while those in Shanghai fell 2.07 per cent to 4.72 yuan (HK$5.75).

'CRCC will spend a lot of money building the stadium in the next three to four years, which will increase its costs and reduce its gross margins,' said Masterlink Securities analyst James Chung. 'That's why its share price dropped. The question is what sort of returns CRCC will gain.'

Andre Loesekrug-Pietri, chairman of A Capital, a private equity firm based in Hong Kong and Beijing, said Inter Milan was a global brand and it would raise CRCC's profile globally. 'It seems to be a clever strategy to buy a reputable track record for construction. Building a stadium is very high-profile. CRCC is trading money against track record,' he said.

Previously, Beijing would help countries directly, but now it is more interested in infrastructure projects abroad, said Barclays Capital analyst Patrick Xu. While Beijing has long used state-owned enterprises (SOE) to build infrastructure in developing countries, it is new for a SOE to do so in a nation like Italy, he said.

 

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