Lander Sports scraps plans to buy stake in Southampton


BEIJING: Chinese stadium builder Lander Sports said late on Sunday it was terminating plans to buy a stake in English soccer club Southampton, citing uncertain factors wrought by changes in China’s securities market and policies.

In a statement issued to the stock market, Lander Sports said the process to buy an 80% stake in the Southampton’s holding firm, St. Mary’s Football Group, also involved having to gain approval from government bodies including China’s foreign exchange regulator and top economic planner.

“Whether the company can eventually complete the acquisition of the target firm’s shares remains uncertain,” it said in the statement.

“To keep to principle of prudence, ensure the company’s development remains normal and to safeguard the majority of investors’ interests, the company has decided to end this major asset restructuring.”

The company had earlier this year said it had struck a deal with Saints’ owner Katharina Liebherr, without disclosing the price.

Reuters reported in March that Chinese buyers including materials giant Amer International and CITIC Securities Co Ltd were preparing a rival bid.

Chinese entities and individuals have ploughed more than US$3 billion into overseas soccer investments since late 2015, encouraged by avid fan President Xi Jinping, who wants the country to become a soccer superpower.

A number of sports-related deals, however, have hit hurdles after Beijing said it would rein in risks from “irrational” outbound investments, with particular focus on sectors including hotels, entertainment and sports.

A 740 million euros (US$784.92 million) agreement for Italian club AC Milan, which was held up as the buyers struggled to get approval from Beijing, finally closed last week eight months after it was agreed.