Suning takes main Inter stake, vows to fill club coffers

Chinese retailer Suning's chairman Zhang Jindong (right), posing for pictures alongside Inter president Erick Thohir during a press briefing in Nanjing, has promised to invest in the Milan giants' playing squad after purchasing a majority stake in th
Chinese retailer Suning's chairman Zhang Jindong (right), posing for pictures alongside Inter president Erick Thohir during a press briefing in Nanjing, has promised to invest in the Milan giants' playing squad after purchasing a majority stake in the club. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • Chinese electronics giant Suning said it will take a majority stake in Italy's Inter Milan yesterday, making the three-time European champions the most high-profile acquisition yet by investors from China.

Suning will pay €270 million (S$416 million) for about 70 per cent of the northern Italian team, one of the biggest clubs in European football who are now entirely in foreign hands for the first time.

"Buying Inter Milan is part of Suning's overall layout in the sports industry," Suning Holdings Group chairman Zhang Jindong said at a press briefing. "It is an important part of Suning's international development."

The Chinese retailer promised to inject funds to take Inter, who finished fourth in this season's Serie A, back into the top 10 of European clubs by consistently qualifying for the Champions League.

"Suning will inject a steady stream of capital investment in Inter Milan, which will help them attract more talented players worldwide to once again win glory with strong backing," said Zhang.

Inter's cross-town rivals AC Milan, with whom they share the iconic San Siro stadium, are also in talks with Chinese investors over a possible sale following 30 years under the control of former Italy prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Inter, who are 18-time Italian champions, have been under foreign control since 2013, when Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir took a 70 per cent stake. Under the new deal, Thohir's International Sports Capital becomes the sole minority shareholder while he retains his position as club president.

Inter now become the biggest acquisition yet in what has been a spending spree by Chinese investors, spurred by President Xi Jinping's ambitions to import talent and expertise that can turn China into a global football power.

Last December, state-backed China Media Capital snapped up a 13 per cent stake in Manchester City for US$400 million (S$544 million), and real estate powerhouse Dalian Wanda owns 20 per cent of Spain's Atletico Madrid.

In January, Chinese model car maker Rastar completed a 54 per cent acquisition of Spain's Espanyol. Last month, Aston Villa accepted an US$87 million offer from Chinese businessman Tony Xia.

Suning also owns Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning, who twice broke the Asian transfer record this year to sign Ramires from Chelsea for €28 million and Shakhtar Donetsk's Alex Teixeira for €50 million.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Suning takes main Inter stake, vows to fill club coffers'. Print Edition | Subscribe