Football club co-owned by Alibaba files for IPO

Football team Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao (in red), which has filed with China's National Equities Exchange and Quotations to list on the so-called "New Third Board", could become the first club to be listed in Asia.
Football team Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao (in red), which has filed with China's National Equities Exchange and Quotations to list on the so-called "New Third Board", could become the first club to be listed in Asia.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • Evergrande Taobao, the football team co-owned by Alibaba Group Holding and property firm Evergrande Real Estate Group, could become the first club listed in Asia after it filed for an initial public offering (IPO) in China.

The team, which recently signed Brazilian World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, filed with the National Equities Exchange and Quotations (NEEQ) to list on the so-called "New Third Board", Evergrande said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday.

The company gave no size for the planned listing, which is pending approval by the NEEQ that operates China's leading over-the-counter equity exchange.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba last year agreed to pay US$192 million (S$259 million) for half of the team, just months ahead of the firm's record-breaking IPO in the United States. The deal was hatched over a few drinks between co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma and Evergrande's billionaire chairman, Mr Xu Jiayin.

Evergrande Taobao's valuation has reached 10 billion yuan (S$2.2 billion), according to Chinese media, smaller than Manchester United's nearly US$3 billion market capitalisation, but much larger than more traditional publicly listed teams such as Juventus FC and SS Lazio in Italy, and Germany's Borussia Dortmund.

Evergrande said it currently owned 60 per cent of the team and did not plan to sell any of its shares in the offering.

The team, formally known as Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao Football Club, won the Asian Football Confederation Champions League in 2013 and the Chinese Super League last year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2015, with the headline 'Football club co-owned by Alibaba files for IPO'. Print Edition | Subscribe