China Retail Giant May Be Buying Majority Stake in Inter Milan

  • China’s group reported to announce Inter Milan acquisition
  • Press event planned at company headquarters in Nanjing

Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a match Empoli FC in May 2016. Suning, one of China’s largest retailers, has been moving closer to buying between 60 percent and 70 percent of the soccer club.

Photographer: Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

China’s retail giant Suning Commerce Group Ltd. will hold a press conference Monday at which it may announce a deal to buy a majority stake in Italy’s soccer club Inter Milan.

Suning plans to hold the briefing at its headquarters in Nanjing this afternoon to make a “soccer-related” announcement, according to a company representative. A spokesperson for Inter Milan didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The group, one of China’s largest retailers, has been moving closer to buying between 60 percent and 70 percent of the soccer club, according to Italian media, and the deal would value the club at between 600 million euros ($682 million) and 700 million euros, according to La Repubblica newspaper.

Such an acquisition would just be the first step of a broader strategic plan for Suning to build a global sports empire, Reuters reported Sunday, citing company documents. A network of this kind would include clubs, sports-media rights and broadcasting platforms, according to the report.

China’s Soccer Ambitions

The deal would be part of a push from Chinese companies toward the sport which has been traditionally dominated by Western teams, driven by a desire by President Xi Jinping to turn the country into a soccer powerhouse. China aims to have more than 70,000 soccer pitches by 2020 and wants its national team to be among the top-ranked in Asia by 2030, the government said earlier this year.

Chinese teams have been the biggest spenders on talent in 2016, and some of the nation’s richest businessmen have invested in clubs and training programs at home and overseas.

In March, Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group Co. pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to FIFA, becoming the first major sponsor for the soccer body since a criminal corruption scandal overwhelmed the organization.

A Chinese investor group is also pursuing the takeover of AC Milan soccer club, Inter’s traditional opponent, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg.

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