Southampton’s £210m+ sale to Chinese investors is ‘on’, but to which group?

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By Paul Nicholson

April 19 – The news that Lander Sports had pulled out of the £210 million+ acquisition of Premier League Southampton was premature. Even if Lander fail to raise the cash to complete the sale, a second, as yet unnamed, bidder from China is waiting in the wings and has the money ready to proceed.

The Gao family, majority owners of Lander, are actively trying to raise the capital for the acquisition in mainland China and Hong Kong, where Lander is listed on the stock exchange, but time is running out on their exclusivity to complete the first stage of the purchase.

A deal was signed with Saints owner Katarina Liebherr on 11 November 2016 that gave Lander an exclusive six months to complete the acquisition of 80% of the shares.

With the deadline approaching, Lander announced to the stock exchange that it was unable to announce a major asset restructuring of the company because it had not completed the Saints deal – something the Gao family are still scrambling to achieve.

However, the prospect of a sale is still live and is looking increasingly likely with other investors waiting for Lander’s exclusivity to end next month. That will enable a new suitor to come in for the club with sources telling Insideworldfootball that a deal could be done within two months and in time for the start of the 2017/18 season.

Alexander Jarvis, chairman of Blackbridge Cross Borders, a financial advisory firm specialising in sports deals and with a strong focus on Chinese football investment via its sports division, confirmed that should Lander fail to complete the deal then the Chinese investor appetite for Southampton is still very strong.

Jarvis would not name interested parties but said there is Hong Kong investment aside from Lander that has the money available and is in position to buy the club. Furthermore the alternative investors are able act quickly.

The sale price would be around the £210 million mark but could rise to £225 million.

Blackbridge has advised on a number of Chinese investments in English football in both the Premier League and the Championship. Its advisory has included work with Suning, Fosun, Dalian Wanda and CITIC.

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