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SBD Global/August 18, 2017/Finance

Gao Receives China-Backed Bank Funding For Southampton Takeover

Premier League side Southampton's new owner funded his £200M ($257.5M) takeover of the club "with a loan from a Chinese government-backed bank in Hong Kong," people familiar with the matter said, according to BLOOMBERG. A Chinese investor group led by Lander Sports Development Chair Gao Jisheng "settled the bulk of the acquisition cost with a loan from Hong Kong's Nanyang Commercial Bank Ltd.," according to the sources. The consortium reportedly purchased an 80% stake in Southampton in a deal completed this week. The borrowing is "backed by some of Gao's assets outside of China, including those in the former Portuguese colony of Macau." Nanyang Commercial Bank was bought last year by China Cinda Asset Management Co., a financial group whose "biggest shareholder is the Chinese central government." By obtaining offshore financing in Hong Kong, Gao "skirted a Chinese regulatory clampdown on companies buying trophy assets overseas" like sports teams, film studios and luxury hotels. Lander Sports, which has a market value of $1.4B in Shenzhen, said earlier this year that it agreed to buy control of Southampton from team owner Katharina Liebherr. Gao "later decided to pursue the transaction in a personal capacity," after the listed company said that it terminated its involvement due to "changes in domestic policies." DealGlobe acted as financial adviser to the Gao family in the transaction. A representative for Gao declined to comment, while a spokesperson for Nanyang Commercial Bank said she could not "immediately comment" (BLOOMBERG, 8/17).
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