Property giant Dalian Wanda Group Co said on Wednesday it would buy a stake in Spanish soccer champions Atletico Madrid for 45 million euros ($52 million), becoming the first Chinese company to invest in a premier European football club.
Dalian Wanda said it had agreed to buy a 20 percent share in Atletico, as China's biggest property group seeks to expand overseas and diversify its business away from a weak domestic real estate market.
Atletico are last year's La Liga champions, and the investment marks Dalian Wanda's latest push into entertainment. Its billionaire founder Wang Jianlin has said he wants the group to expand in theme parks, to become a world-class competitor to Walt Disney Co and Universal Studios.
The deal is likely to be a boon for Atletico, which has racked up debts of more than 500 million euros, as it will also help introduce the club to new Chinese fans and sponsors.
Dalian Wanda is the parent of Hong Kong-listed Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co Ltd.
Last week, Wang said he aims to increase the group's revenue by 147 percent to 600 billion yuan by 2020, with more than 20 percent coming from overseas. International revenue is presently negligible.
In 2012, the Beijing-based Dalian Wanda bought of U.S. movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.. It is also the leading shareholder in China's biggest theatre chain, Wanda Cinema Line Corp.
($1 = 0.8648 euros)
Image: Atletico Madrid players celebrate a win (This image is used for representational purposes)
Photograph: Sergio Perez/Reuters