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Manchester City owner gets US$400m from Chinese buyers

[HONG KONG] A Chinese consortium led by China Media Capital Holdings is investing US$400 million in the Abu Dhabi- based company that owns Manchester City Football club, the top- ranked English Premier League team.

CMC, a Shanghai-based private equity fund that owns the broadcast rights to the Chinese Super League, is teaming up with CITIC Capital Holdings to buy 13 per cent of City Football Group, which also owns New York City Football Club and Melbourne City Football Club, according to a statement on Tuesday. The deal values City Football at US$3 billion.

The deal was announced just weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Manchester City's training ground, where he posed for a selfie with Argentine star player Sergio Aguero and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. CMC is chaired by Li Ruigang, who has led group investments including a stake in IMAX China Holding Inc, and tie ups with DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc and Warner Brothers by the fund focused on media content and sports events.

"Football is now at a fascinating and critical stage of development in China," Li said in the statement. "We see unprecedented growth opportunities in both its development as an industry, being China's most watched sport, and its inspirational role bringing people of all ages together with a shared passion." Ma, Wang Manchester City's cross-town rival Manchester United Plc is listed on the New York Stock Exchange with a valuation of US$3 billion.

The deal is the latest high-profile investment in sports ventures by Chinese companies. Last year Jack Ma's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd paid US$192 million for a 50 per cent stake in Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao Football Club, ranked number one in the Chinese Super League.

Dalian Wanda Group Co, controlled by billionaire Wang Jianlin, Asia's richest man, said in August it was paying US$650 million for the organizer of the Ironman races, World Triathalon Corp, adding to his holdings including soccer team Atletico Madrid. He also owns Zug, Switzerland-based sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media AG. China's domestic market for sports beyond soccer will grow from US$8 billion this year to US$800 billion by 2025 including media rights, licensing, merchandise and sports-facility operations, Dalian Wanda said at the time.

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