Chinese investors to buy minority stake in Inter Milan

MILAN Thu Aug 2, 2012 4:06pm BST

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MILAN (Reuters) - A group of Chinese investors will buy a minority stake in Inter Milan, becoming the second-biggest shareholder of Italy's top football club, and a deal has been reached with China Railway Construction Corp to build a new stadium for the team.

China Railway Construction would pay $600 million (386 million pounds) for a 15 percent stake in the club, Caixin reported on its website on Thursday. The Chinese financial news magazine did not say if the company was part of the group of Inter investors.

Chinese investors, encouraged by the government, have been actively pursuing overseas assets in recent years. Some high-profile purchases have included the takeover of cereal maker Weetabix by China Bright Food and an agreement by Dalian Wanda Group to buy the U.S. movie chain AMC Theatres, both in May.

The Moratti family would keep control of the football club, according to a statement posted on Inter's website late on Wednesday. The statement did not disclose the financial details of the deal nor the size of the stake.

"F.C. Internazionale welcomes the new shareholders," the statement said, without identifying the Chinese investors.

Inter also said the new stadium to be built by China Railway Construction will be completed by 2017.

The stadium would have a capacity of 60,000 and construction would start next year, according to Caixin. That compares with the 80,065 capacity of the current San Siro Stadium.

Company officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

China Railway Construction has actively pursued overseas investment this year, signing two projects in Africa with a total contract value of 9.1 billion yuan. In November last year, a consortium involving the Shanghai-listed company announced a deal to develop an iron ore mine in Guinea.

China Railway Construction shares were down about 2 percent at 6:40 p.m. British time.

The Inter Milan deal appears to represent the first time investors from the Chinese mainland had successfully snagged a chunk of a major foreign sports team, although it was not the first attempt.

The Los Angeles Times reported last year that the Dodgers had received an $1.2 billion offer to buy the city's troubled Major League Baseball team, funded, in part, by Chinese investors.

Chinese investors launched an attempt to buy the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team in 2009, Thomson Reuters data showed, and in 2010, news reports said investors from China bid for the Liverpool football club.

In 2009, Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung bought English football club Birmingham City.

(Reporting By Silvia Aloisi, Sally Huang in Beijing and John Ruwitch in Shanghai; Editing by Ryan Woo)

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