Billionaire Li denies HK$3.85b bid for Inter

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 September, 2007, 12:00am

Li Ka-shing is lining up a sensational takeover of Italian giants Inter Milan, Italian media reported yesterday.

Even though a spokesman for Li's Cheung Kong Holdings denied the reports, sports website carried extensive details, saying Inter president and owner Massimo Moratti would receive an offer in the region of Euro350 million (HK$3.85 billion) from the Hong Kong tycoon in the next few days.

According to the report, Li would also make at least Euro150 million available for the purchase of new players, with Ronaldinho named as a primary target.

The report also speculated that Li would seek to install a new management team, bad news for incumbent boss Roberto Mancini, who led the team to the Serie A title last season. Moratti has previously spoken of his willingness to sell the club, whom he bought in 1995, if a suitable new owner could be found. The report said it 'will not be easy' for Moratti to decide whether Asia's richest man is the right person to take the club forward.

With a fortune estimated at US$23 billion, which according to Forbes magazine makes him the ninth-richest man in the world, Li has the spending power to compete with the likes of Roman Abramovich, the extravagant owner of English Premier League side Chelsea, and Silvio Berlusconi, owner of AC Milan. Li's reported takeover bid comes after another Hong Kong-based businessman, Carson Yeung Ka-sing, paid HK$238.7 million for a 29.91 per cent stake in Premier League club Birmingham City. Another Asian tycoon, Thailand's ousted prime minister Thaksin Sinawatra, this summer bought Manchester City. Li has business interests in Italy, including Hutchinson 3G, although recent reports suggested he may be seeking bidders for the loss-making venture.

The nerazzuri are in second place in Serie A behind Roma after three games, but suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Turkish side Fenerbahce in their opening Champions League game of the season. The squad is packed full of stars including Patrick Vieira, Marco Materazzi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Despite lavish spending in the 12-year ownership of Moratti, Inter have failed to match the success of rivals AC Milan and Juventus.They have won just two Serie A titles and failed to win the Champions League.