Inter Milan sells stake to Chinese investors

Indonesian fans welcome Inter Milan Inter Milan and other European football clubs have many fans in parts of Asia

Inter Milan has said that a group of Chinese investors is to become its second-largest shareholder.

In a statement, the Italian football club said the group would acquire a stake but that the Moratti family would retain control.

Internazionale Holding also said it would build a new stadium in partnership with a unit of China Railway Construction by 2017.

The Serie A club is looking to increase its presence in Asia.

It is thought that Chinese interests will take a 15% stake in the famous Italian club, which won the Scudetto and Champions League in 2010.

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but there are reports the agreement is worth nearly $70m.

Inter Milan did not confirm the identity of the investors but it is widely reported by Chinese media that China Railway Construction Group is the key player in the deal, said BBC World Service Chinese editor Raymond Li.

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome said that the deal is being seen in Italy as just one more sign of the economic times - an Italian institution with money worries turning for help to the limitless resources of a rising China.

'New phase'

Inter Milan said Kamchi Li, Kenneth Huang and Fabrizio Rindi would become members of the board of directors as a result of the investment.

This is the first such deal by a Chinese state-owned enterprise with a leading European club. Interestingly, one of the three representatives sent by the Chinese investors is Kenneth Huang, who also tried to buy stakes in Liverpool FC in 2010 but failed.

China is becoming increasingly involved in international football - a couple of Chinese clubs recently splashed their cash on buying top coaches and players, including Didier Drogba.

The current gossip in Beijing is that Xi Jinping, widely expected to be China's next president, is a keen football fan, so it wouldn't be surprising if we see other Chinese investors buying more top football clubs in the coming months.

Calling it a "new phase in the life of the club", Inter said the move was "aimed at expanding its presence in the Asian markets to raise new resources for the enhancement of its international future development and winning perspectives".

The location of the new stadium has not yet been decided, the statement said.

Inter is the latest European club to attract the attention of business tycoons from Asia.

English Premier League club Queen's Park Rangers is owned by Tony Fernandes, head of the Malaysian budget airline Air Asia, after he completed a takeover last year.

English Championship side Birmingham City is owned by Hong Kong billionaire Carson Yeung who took over the club in 2009, while Thailand-based Asia Football Investments owns Leicester City.

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