BC Partners eyeing investment in Inter Milan: sources

MILAN/BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) - Private equity firm BC Partners is in talks to buy into Italian soccer team Inter Milan, four sources familiar with the matter said, as top investor Suning looks for resources to inject into the loss-making Serie A club.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Inter Milan v Sampdoria - San Siro, Milan, Italy - June 21, 2020 General view during a minute's silence before the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

A deal, which could value the former European champions at more than 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion), would be the latest sign of interest from private equity investors in Italian soccer.

A consortium including CVC, Advent and state-backed Italian fund FSI is buying a 10% stake in a media company handling Serie A’s soccer rights for 1.7 billion euros.

Suning is looking to sell a stake of up to 40% in the Milan club valued at around 500 million euros, one of the sources said.

The source said BC Partners would be more of a financial investor and Suning, which would continue managing the club, would be able to buy back the stake in the future.

Goldman Sachs is advising Suning on the deal, the sources said.

The Chinese electronics retailer has been the majority shareholder of Inter since 2016, when it bought a 68.55% stake for 270 million euros.

BC Partners was open to buying either a minority or a majority stake in the club, a second source said, adding due diligence was still underway.

“BC is halfway through the due diligence process and so no decision is imminent,” the source said.

A third source said BC Partners was also interested in a full takeover of the club.

Earlier this month, Inter Milan president Steven Zhang shot down reports in the Italian media that he was looking to sell the Serie A club.

Steven Zhang is the son of Chinese billionaire Zhang Jindong, founder and chairman of Suning.

Speaking to Italian state broadcaster RAI, Inter Milan’s chief executive Giuseppe Marotta said on Wednesday Suning was weighing options in the interests of the club.

Under Suning’s ownership, Inter returned to the Champions League after a six-year absence in 2018 and finished as runners-up in the Europa League and Serie A in 2020.

Like other soccer clubs around the world, Inter are facing a drop in revenues due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, as matches are played in empty stadiums and companies cut their sponsorship budgets.

The “Nerazzurri” posted a 102 million euro loss in the financial year ended June 30.

Suning and BC Partners did not immediately comment while Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

($1 = 0.8213 euros)

Reporting by Elvira Pollina, Pamela Barbaglia, Stephen Jewkes, Julie Zhu; Editing by Keith Weir and Ken Ferris