Business

Manchester City group sells 13% to Chinese investors

Aleksander Kolarov scores for Man City against Southampton Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Man City are currently top of the Premier League on goal difference

Manchester City's parent company has been valued at $3bn (£2bn) after selling a 13% stake, worth £265m, to a consortium of Chinese investors.

City Football Group (CFG) has sold the stake to CMC (China Media Capital) and investment company Citic Capital.

It comes after six months of talks and is aimed at expanding CFG's interests in the Chinese football industry.

New shares will be issued in CFG in addition to those held by its owner, Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG).

Chinese state visit

CFG is an investment and development company which is privately owned by Sheikh Mansour of the Abu Dhabi royal family. It also includes New York City FC, Melbourne City FC and Yokohama Marinos.

The move will offer the chance for Man City and the other group clubs to grow a fan base in East Asia, where there is huge competition between top clubs in Europe, and beyond, to build up supporter numbers.

The ultimate aim is to turn those football fans into customers of club products and services too.

The move follows a visit to Manchester in October by the President of China, Xi Jinping.

Ruigang Li, who founded and chairs both the Chinese firms, will represent their consortium by becoming the seventh CFG board member.

Analysis: Simon Stone, BBC Sport football writer

This deal is big news for Manchester City, but I am told it is absolutely not the start of an exit strategy from the current owners. China has long been viewed as having huge potential for growth commercially.

In China, an area where only Real Madrid of the established European heavyweights has a significant presence, CMC Holdings will provide contacts to open the right doors to the right opportunities.

If their Abu Dhabi ownership is any guide, City's presence in China will expand rapidly.

It is also worth noting that through this deal, including satellite clubs New York City FC, Melbourne City and Yokohama Marinos, City are now worth approximately 10 times more than Sheikh Mansour bought the club for in 2008.

'Growth path'

"Football is the most loved, played and watched sport in the world and in China, the exponential growth pathway for the game is both unique and hugely exciting," said Khaldoon al-Mubarak, chairman of CFG.

Image copyright MCFC/PA
Image caption President Xi Jinping visited Man City football academy on the final day of his UK trip in October

"We have therefore worked hard to find the right partners and to create the right deal structure to leverage the incredible potential that exists in China, both for CFG and for football at large."

CMC owns a number of exclusive major sports media rights including the Chinese Super League, China Football Association national teams and the China University Football League. CMC is also involved in sports production and media operations.

Citic Capital manages $5bn of capital for international and Chinese institutional investors, with offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo and New York.

Future outposts?

Professor Chris Brady, director for Sports Business at the University of Salford, said it was not just Man City who would benefit, as the move would also help China in its goal of becoming a power in football, a sport where it has underperformed.

"It is no coincidence that the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, included a visit to the Etihad on his recent state visit," he added. "President Xi Jinping is a self confessed football fan and is known to be willing to prioritise football across China to build the domestic game there.

"Although the investment probably overvalued City it fits perfectly with the Chinese strategy. City already have New York and Melbourne outposts and it is not unreasonable to assume that a Shanghai City or Beijing City could be the next stops.

"This would, in turn, open up the opportunity to develop a China-wide academy system. There is already strong Chinese investment in Italy's Serie A and further European investment should be expected."

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