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Volume 7 No. 106

Finance

Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group "tapped three banks" -- Citigroup Inc., CLSA and UBS Group AG -- "to work on a proposed initial public offering for its sports businesses," four sources with knowledge of the matter said, according to Baker, Lau & Zhu of REUTERS. An IPO would "follow a string of asset sales as Wanda works to meet debt repayment deadlines." It was one of several domestic conglomerates to be targeted by a government crackdown last year for "aggressive overseas acquisitions," with sources saying that banks were told to "stop providing funding for some deals." The "sprawling" property-to-entertainment group has "yet to decide which exchange to list on" and is considering both Hong Kong and N.Y., two of the sources said. It hopes to raise up to $1B via the share sale, one of them added. All plans are "still at an early stage" and there is "no guarantee that Wanda will pursue an IPO," said the sources, who declined to be named as the information was confidential. Wanda, Citigroup and CLSA declined to comment. UBS did not respond to requests for comment (REUTERS, 1/22).

ESforce Holding Ltd., the parent organization of Virtus.pro, "sold all of its shares" to Russian internet company Mail.Ru for a reported $100M, according to Graham Ashton of THE ESPORTS OBSERVER. ESforce, which also owns a majority stake in SK Gaming, was purchased from Anton Cherepennikov and Highland Falls Investment. Cherepennikov will "keep his position as director." According to Mail.Ru’s announcement, the acquisition value totals $100M, with an additional payment set for the end of '18 based on "certain financial and operating objectives," anticipated to reach up to $20M. The current investment volume amounts to approximately $60M, and ESforce’s EBITDA for '17 was negative $15M. Alongside its two esports teams, ESforce Holding owns Epic Esports Events, publications Cybersport.ru and Cybersport.com, dedicated Moscow esports venue Yota Arena and gambling websites CS:GO and Dota 2 Lounge (THE ESPORTS OBSERVER, 1/22).

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.

After years of "lacklustre sales growth and plunging profits," Puma's sales in the first nine months of '17 jumped 16%, while its operating margin "almost doubled" to just below 7%. The shares "are up almost a third over a year, twice as much" as adidas. Puma CEO Björn Gulden said, "Our turnaround is a long journey, and it is far from over." The recovery "is entering a new phase as current majority shareholder, French luxury group Kering, sells down its Puma stake." Kering this month announced it will lower its holding from 86.3% to 16% (FINANCIAL TIMES, 1/21).

Liberty Media announced it intends to launch a process to refinance the $3.3B first lien term loan of certain subsidiaries of Delta Topco Ltd., the Liberty subsidiary which holds all of its interests in Formula 1. Concurrent with the refinancing, the relevant subsidiaries of Delta Topco intend to repay up to $400M of the first lien term loan using a combination of excess cash on the balance sheet and loans under the first lien involving credit facility, subject to obtaining necessary consents and funding of the relevant loans (Liberty Media).