China’s Suning looks for partner to finance Inter Milan

Suning is looking for €250 million to finance Italian soccer club Inter Milan after the failure of the European Super League to provide a boost; founder Zhang Jindong looking for ways to cut its huge debt load

China’s Suning looks for partner to finance Inter Milan
Suning is looking for a financial partner to invest in Inter Milan, the new Italian Serie A league champions. File picture: Reuters.

(ATF) Inter Milan won the Italian Serie A league on Sunday May 2 for the first time in 11 years, but the team’s Chinese owner - retail group Suning - is scrambling to raise funds after the collapse of a planned European Super League that would have supplied a cash injection to its members.

Suning is looking for a partner to finance Inter Milan, the team’s chief executive Giuseppe Marotta told Italian radio on Monday May 3. 

Suning owns 68.5% of the club, which is suffering like other teams from falling revenue due to the Covid pandemic. The remaining shares are owned by investment firm Lionrock Capital.

“The owners are working for the good of Inter, the goal is to reach an agreement with a partner to get the liquidity that is needed right now,” Marotta told Rai Radio 1, adding that Suning had invested €700 million in the team so far.

Inter Milan was one of the three Italian founding members, alongside Juventus and AC Milan, of the European Super League, a breakaway project which collapsed a few days after its announcement.

Earlier this year Suning held exclusive talks with London-based BC Partners, which was interested in a majority stake in the club, but the talks failed.

Talks with Bain, Oaktree

Inter Milan is now looking for a financing deal of up to €250 million to meet immediate needs and recently has been holding discussions with Bain Capital Credit and Oaktree Capital Group on the matter, two sources told Reuters.

A loan would be granted to Great Horizon Sarl, the Luxembourg-based vehicle through which Suning controls the club, one of the sources added.

Bain Capital Credit declined to comment. Oaktree was not immediately available for a comment.

There has been widespread speculation that Suning - which is privately held - is under financial pressure and founder Zhang Jindong has been looking for ways to cut its huge debt load.

In February Suning closed down Chinese soccer club Jiangsu FC just months after it won a national title, which Inter Milan fans will hope is not a sign of a future approach to funding for their own club.

The €250 million that Suning is seeking in new financing for Inter Milan is comparable to the €200 million to €300 million that was expected to be paid to each of the founding members of the proposed European Super League from a €3.25 billion loan that would have been provided by JPMorgan.

The project to set up a new league collapsed immediately after it was announced in late April, due to almost unanimous opposition from fans, players and team managers.

Many soccer team owners have deep enough pockets to cope with the failure of the proposed league to provide a boost to their finances, but Suning seems unwilling or unable to commit much more money of its own to Inter Milan.

Chinese firms are retreating from ownership stakes in foreign soccer teams and a backlash from fans against US owners of European clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal could also lead to changes in the financing of the world’s most popular sport.

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China Suning Inter Milan Suning debt crisis Zhang Jindong Italy football soccer