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Wanda eyeing stake in AC Milan soccer team

2015-02-26 10:07 China Daily Web Editor: Qin Dexing

China's biggest property developer expanding sports empire in Europe, Italian report says

Dalian Wanda Group is interested in purchasing a 30 percent stake of Italian soccer team AC Milan, as the company continues its shopping spree to build a sports empire in Europe.

Wanda, which controls the nation's biggest property developer and largest cinema chain, is considering paying $170 million for the minority stake in the team, according to Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

The property developer may also be planning to build AC Milan's new stadium in the Portello district. The real estate giant declined to comment on the news.

Local media reported that Thai investor Bee Taechaubol has also held negotiations with former Italian prime minister and AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi.

Bee Taechaubol, who owns a real estate empire in Thailand, is said to be willing to pay for a majority stake in the club. However, local media suggested that Berlusconi would favor a Wanda offer for the Rossoneri team as Wanda pledged to help the club in its objective to build the new stadium.

"The arrival in Italy of the Wanda Group and Wang Jianlin (chairman of Wanda Group) has created a new scenario, because it ties in very well with the new stadium project," wrote Italian sports journalist Marco Bellinazzo.

The Chinese offer represents Berlusconi's dream of selling a minority stake without losing control, letting the new shareholders take charge of the construction of the stadium, added Bellinazzo.

Last month, Wanda concluded the acquisition of a 20 percent acquisition of Spanish team Atletico de Madrid, and now the company plans to open 200 corner shops in its Chinese Wanda malls to sell the team's official merchandise. Wanda's owner, Wang Jianlin, also wants to participate in the development of a bigger stadium for the Madrid-based team.

This month, the Chinese company successfully completed the purchase of influential Swiss sports marketing giant Infront for $1.2 billion. Wang said that the acquisition would help pave the way for Wanda to become a global force in the sports industry. Infront also owns the broadcast rights of Italian soccer.

"The acquisition of Infront will significantly increase the future impact of the Wanda Group in the culture and entertainment industry and will also drive the development of the Chinese sports industry and its interest around the globe," Wang said earlier this month.

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