Wanda poised to buy 3 more sports firms

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By QI­UQUAN­LIN in Guangzhou qi­uquan­lin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd, the Chi­nese prop­erty gi­ant, will buy at least three more sports com­pa­nies this year as it con­tin­ues on its quest to be­come a leader in the global sports in­dus­try.

Wang Jian­lin, its chair­man, toldXin­huaNews Agency that he ex­pects to an­nounce a ma­jor ac­qui­si­tion very soon that would be “good news” for Chi­nese soc­cer, with­out giv­ing fur­ther de­tails.

In Fe­bru­ary, Wanda fought off 11 other in­ter­na­tional bid­ders to take over In­front Sports & Media AG, the world’s most re­spected sports mar­ket­ing com­pany based in Zug, Switzer­land, from the Euro­pean pri­vate eq­uity firm Bridge­point in a deal worth around $1.2 bil­lion.

The Swiss com­pany owns copy­rights and mar­ket­ing sales rights for seven in­ter­na­tional sports as­so­ci­a­tions that gov­ern the Win­ter Olympic Games.

With con­trol of In­front’s re­sources, its sports event broad­cast rights and mar­ket­ing rights, Wang said Wanda now stands in the up­stream of the sports in­dus­try.

Wanda also took a 20 per­cent stake in Span­ish La Liga gi­ant Atleti­coMadrid in April.

“One of our ma­jor con­cerns is that the com­pa­nies in­volved in the ac­qui­si­tions should have a dom­i­nat­ing role in sports mar­ket­ing,” he said, adding they should also be pre­pared to bring some­thing from the sports they spe­cial­ize in to China.

“Af­ter buy­ing the Swiss com­pany, we are able to launch a se­ries of sports ac­tiv­i­ties in China,” Wang said.

Wanda signed a three-year agree­ment with the Chi­nese Football As­so­ci­a­tion in 2011 to in­vest 500 mil­lion yuan ($80.53 mil­lion) into pro­mot­ing Chi­nese soc­cer, which in­cluded fund­ing 30 young Chi­nese play­ers each year to train in Spain.

“Ev­ery­thing we have done in the past and will do in the fu­ture is aimed at boost­ing Chi­nese soc­cer, which is re­ally in need of more tal­ented young play­ers,” Wang said.

In re­cent weeks, the Ital­ian media have been spec­u­lat­ing that Wanda is also in­ter­ested in buy­ing a 30 per­cent stake in Se­ries A gi­ant AC Mi­lan at a cost of $170 mil­lion, and that it might also build the club’s new sta­dium in the Portello dis­trict of the city.

Xie Liang, a vet­eran soc­cer com­men­ta­tor with Ra­dio Guang­dong, said Wanda’s grow­ing in­volve­ment in soc­cer is seen by­many as a mir­ror of the coun­try’s strate­gic plans to up­grade in­dus­tries at home.

“Get­ting in­volved in sport world­wide will help build a bet­ter im­age of Chi­nese com­pa­nies, and helpChi­nese com­pa­nies di­ver­sify into other busi­nesses,” said Xie.

In re­cent years, a grow­ing num­ber of tra­di­tional Chi­nese com­pa­nies, es­pe­cially in the real es­tate sec­tor, have be­come in­volved in de­vel­op­ing the soc­cer in­dus­try, ei­ther in co­op­er­a­tion with or by buy­ing into over­seas soc­cer clubs.

Ever­grande Real Es­tate Group Ltd, the prop­erty devel­oper based in Guangzhou, the cap­i­tal of Guang­dong province, has al­ready formed an al­liance with the Span­ish gi­ant RealMadrid to de­velop a soc­cer school in China and three over­seas branch schools.

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