Chinese Suitor for English Soccer Club in ‘Major Restructuring’

  • China’s Lander Sports said to be in talks with Southampton
  • Company doesn’t disclose name of sports assets it’s targeting

The Chinese company that’s said to be in exclusive discussions to acquire English Premier League soccer team Southampton for as much as 200 million pounds ($248.8 million) has requested a halt to trading in its shares for a further month pending the conclusion of efforts to acquire sports assets.

Shares in Lander Sports Development Co. have not traded since October, and the company requires the suspension to remain pending “major asset restructuring,” it said Wednesday in a regulatory filing. Bloomberg News previously reported that Lander was in discussions with Southampton, based on England’s south coast. Lander didn’t disclose its takeover targets.

A Southampton takeover would be the most significant Chinese acquisition in English soccer to date, following deals in which West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City were sold to Chinese investors. Another Chinese group owns a minority stake in Premier League powerhouse Manchester City.

A spokesman for Southampton didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment and Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr didn’t answer a call to her mobile phone. Officials at Lander’s offices didn’t respond to calls made outside Chinese business hours.

The talks come amid a surge of investment in soccer by Chinese companies, spurred by President Xi Jinping’s stated desire to turn the nation into a force in the sport. Until last year Lander focused on the sale and management of property. Then it shifted to sports, a change that signaled convergence with Xi’s drive.

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