Football: Chinese aim to buy historic French club Sochaux from Peugeot for 7 million euros

Sochaux-Montbeliard 's football team supporters holding a scarf reading "FC Sochaux Montbeliard, since 1928" during a football match between Sochaux and Evian at the Auguste Bonal stadium in Montbeliard last year. -- PHOTO: AFP
Sochaux-Montbeliard 's football team supporters holding a scarf reading "FC Sochaux Montbeliard, since 1928" during a football match between Sochaux and Evian at the Auguste Bonal stadium in Montbeliard last year. -- PHOTO: AFP

SOCHAUX, France (AFP) - Hong Kong investors said Tuesday they want to buy historic French football club Sochaux from the Peugeot car company for 7 million euros (S$10.82 million), stepping up the Chinese march into international sports.

Sochaux have been owned by the Peugeot family for 90 years and spent a record 66 seasons in the French first division until they were relegated last year.

The Tech Pro Technology Development company follow Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin in buying into European football. Wang last month bought a 20 per cent stake in Atletico Madrid.

Tech Pro, a Hong Kong listed electrical components manufacturer, said it would pay 7 million euros for "all the issued share capital and voting rights".

Sochaux president Denis Worbe confirmed that Peugeot had received a letter of intent and that the Chinese were proposing a "credible project for the club".

He added that "preferential" talks to complete the deal would take several weeks to complete.

Worbe said Tech Pro and its Ledus subsidiary, which makes LED lights, wants to use Sochaux to promote its expansion in Europe.

The Chinese firm had been "attracted by the club and its history".

"What is important to us is to have a solid project. It is crucial that the long and important history of FC Sochaux in French football can develop over the long term with shareholders other than the PSA Group," Worbe said.

Sochaux was created by the Peugeot family in 1928. The eastern French town has a huge Peugeot factory. In its glory years, it won the French championship in 1935 and 1938 and the French Cup in 1937 and 2007.

Probably the best known player who turned out for them was midfield great Bernard Genghini, a member of the French squads that reached two successive World Cup semi-finals (1982/86) and won the 1984 European Championship.

PSA Peugeot Citroen announced last year that it wanted to sell the football club and concentrate on auto racing.

The car company also turned to China when it hit financial troubles last year. It sold 14% stakes to China's Dongfeng Motor, as well as the French state.

Tech Pro are not the first Hong Kong firm to try their luck at European football.

Hong Kong property tycoon Carson Leung ran English side Birmingham City from 2007 until 2014 when he was jailed for money laundering. Leung remains majority shareholder in the Championship side.

Chinese billionaire Wang has taken a key stake in Atletico Madrid and last week bought Infront, a major Swiss sports marketing group, for 1.05 billion euros.