UniCredit says may consider AS Roma stake sale

Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore said a Chinese investor, possibly business mogul Wang Jianlin, was set to buy into the holding company that controls AS Roma through a reserved capital increase that would dilute current shareholders, especially UniCredit.

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“At present no decision on the stake has been taken. (UniCredit) confirms that the asset is not strategic and would be available to consider possible opportunities to extract value from it,” the bank said in a statement.

UniCredit has about 30 percent of NEEP Roma Holding, the football team’s holding company. The rest is in the hands of U.S. investors.

Wang Jianlin is the chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, one of China’s largest real estate developers. When contacted by Reuters, Shi Xueqing, general manager of Wanda’s football business, said he had not heard of the Il Sole 24 Ore report.

Real estate developers increasingly dominate Chinese football, with investors in the majority of China’s Super League teams operating property businesses.

AS Roma, current leaders in Serie A, said they had nothing to say on the media report at this stage.

Italian football has not attracted the major foreign investment seen in countries like England and France.

Europe’s top league in the 1990s, Serie A has been tarnished by a series of corruption scandals and hooliganism has reduced crowd numbers.

Italian clubs have been held back commercially because many of them do not own their stadiums and have been unable to upgrade them to cater fully for wealthy corporate clients.

Last month a group of Indonesian investors bought a 70 percent stake in Inter Milan in one of few major foreign deals for a leading Italian football club.

(Reporting by Valentina Za, Agnieszka Flak and Xiaoqing Pi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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