June 7, 2017 / 10:14 AM / 2 years ago

China's Lander to develop $589 mln sports town

SHANGHAI, June 7 (Reuters) - Lander Sports Development Co Ltd, the Chinese firm behind an on-off deal for English soccer club Southampton, has signed an agreement to develop a 4-billion-yuan ($588.75 million) sports “town” with a local government in China.

The sports and recreation hub would be built in the western city of Pengzhou with the local government, Lander said in a statement to the Shenzhen exchange on Wednesday. Lander, with potential partners, will fund the 4-billion yuan-investment.

The Chinese stadium builder said in April it was, for now at least, terminating plans to buy a stake in English soccer club Southampton, citing uncertain factors wrought by changes in China’s securities market and policies.

Industry sources, however, said a deal for the English club was not completely dead in the water. Lander said in April that whether the company could “eventually complete the acquisition” of an 80 percent stake in the club “remained uncertain”.

The company had earlier this year said it had struck a deal with Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr.

Chinese entities and individuals have ploughed billions of dollars into overseas soccer investments since late 2015, encouraged by avid fan President Xi Jinping, who wants the country to become a soccer superpower.

However, Beijing’s attitude has cooled of late, and a number of sports-related deals have hit hurdles. Beijing has said it would rein in risks from “irrational” outbound investments, with particular focus on sectors including entertainment and sports.

The 575-hectare sports hub in southwestern Sichuan province, near to the provincial capital Chengdu, will focus on leisure, entertainment and sports activities.

$1 = 6.7941 Chinese yuan Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Sunil Nair

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