China’s Lander forced to pull out of £200m+ Saints buy

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By Paul Nicholson

April 18 – China’s march into European club ownership looks to have been halted with the announcement by Lander Sports that it is shelving plans to buy Premier League Southampton.

Like the recent sale of AC Milan – ultimately financed by a US hedge fund after Chinese money was prevented from leaving the country for the acquisition – the block is again the Chnese government who despite their football ambition see investment in expensive European football clubs as “irrational”.

Lander made its announcement to the Hong Kong stock market where it is listed, saying that its plan to buy 80% of St. Mary’s Football Group involved

Chinese stadium builder Lander Sports 000558.SZ 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 Southampton’s holding company, St. Mary’s Football Group, had failed to gain approvals from government bodies including China’s foreign exchange regulator.

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

Saints owner Katarina Liebherr had initially put a price of £300 million on the club, but that was believed to have been reduced after negotiation to nearer £200 million. Lander announced it had then entered a period of exclusivity to complete the deal.

With that exclusivity expiring, a reported rival £246 million bid was made from materials giant Amer International and CITIC Securities. Chinese sources say that the CITIC bid was never fully committed and that there is now unlikely to be any Chinese deal for Saints.

The club has made no statement on the ownership position or the aborted Chinese sale.

Saints roll the dice with TLCBET

While the sale of the club may be off, the club is continuing to make sales. Saints have announced TLCBET as its Official Asia Betting Partner and Official Global Casino Partner for the remainder of the 2016/17 Premier League season, and for the following seasons. Sanits also have Kenya-based SportPesa as a betting partner.

TLCBET is a leading Asian betting and gaming operator offering online sports betting and casino games. Mike Chong, TLCBET Brand Director, said: “We are proud to be supporting Southampton FC as their Official Asia betting partner and Official Global Casino Partner. The Saints have a massive fan base in Asia and we are excited to be working with them.”

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