Infront owner Wanda ready to spend big on Chinese soccer
Wanda Group, the Chinese multinational conglomerate whose sports investments include the Infront sports marketing agency, is set to spend millions of dollars to promote soccer in its homeland.
The company, which sold its 17-per-cent stake in Spain’s Atlético Madrid in February 2018, plans to invest 2 billion yuan ($297 million) to build 23 soccer fields and training facilities in the northeastern city of Dalian.
Wanda, whose chairman is Wang Jianlin (pictured), said in a statement on its website that the amenities will be able to accommodate as many as 600 players and coaches and will start in December.
China's president Xi Jinping is a huge soccer fan and his plan in 2015 to transform China into a soccer superpower led a number of mainland companies, including Wanda, to invest in foreign clubs.
However, regulators clamped down on overseas investments mid-way through 2017 to combat the surge in capital outflows from China in 2016 that placed downward pressure on the yuan and China's foreign exchange reserves.
In August 2017, the government formalised a framework that encouraged deals that fit the country’s strategic priorities. Deals in sport, as well as entertainment and luxury real estate, are now considered ‘restricted,’ meaning special approval is needed from Beijing.
Of particular concern to the Chinese government, it is understood, was the value of certain deals, particular for European soccer clubs.
Wanda sold its stake in Atlético to Quantum Pacific Group, the shipping and energy conglomerate, in a deal worth about €50 million (56 million). It had bought a 20-per-cent stake in Atlético in 2015 for €45 million, and continues to have naming rights to the club's new Wanda Metropolitano stadium.