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World No.1, Wanda's new aim

By Mark Dreyer, Manny Salvacion, editing by Yutang Sports Tuesday, 30 Jun 2015 18:00

The wide-reaching soccer reforms initiated in March will take at least 20 years to reap dividends on the pitch ­given the time needed for the first crop of youngsters to fully mature, so those who expected China to have done better than this are overly optimistic, bordering on delusional.

Off the field, however, the development of Chinese soccer is continuing at a speed that those tasked with improvement on-field performance can only dream of.

As the “biggest shot” in China soccer, Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin made the announcement on June 24, Wednesday.

"Within this year, Wanda will still buy at least three sports companies," Chairman Wang Jianlin was quoted as saying. "Upon the completion of these mergers and acquisitions, Wanda is going to be the world number one in the sports industry."

In addition to the 45 million euro ($50 million) Atletico share, Wanda has also paid 1.05 billion euros for Swiss sports marketing group Infront this year. The Swiss group is headed by the nephew of outgoing FIFA President Sepp Blatter and has some broadcasting rights for the World Cup.

Wang typically backs up his talk with action: Wanda already has a 20 percent stake in Spanish club Atletico Madrid and also purchased sports marketing giant Infront in February. Stories have since linked Wanda with a bid for ­Italian side AC Milan, while a mystery "­Chinese consortium" was said to be in the running to buy English Premier League club Aston Villa.

Wanda is seeking to expand its influence in the global sports business, as China bids for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and also offered proposals to host the 2026 soccer World Cup.

Wang, a diehard soccer fan, said that the company will work to have some activities in China as well as worldwide sports marketing or ownership rights, although he did not disclose specific goals.

According to the report, Wang said that they will soon announce a good news about Chinese soccer, but did not give any details.

China has announced plans to transform the country's sports sector into a 5 trillion yuan ($817 billion) industry by 2025, through a reform plan that will encourage private investment, construction of new sports facilities and government support for its services.

Wang is ranked by Bloomberg News as the richest man in China and the ninth wealthiest in the world, with a net worth of $42.1 billion.

In 2014, Wang's conglomerate, which is engaged in hotels, entertainment and retail, posted a 30-percent increase in revenue to 242.5 billion yuan.

The conglomerate has also acquired the U.S. cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings in 2012, as the group decided to expand into film production and theme parks.

Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co, was also able to raise $3.7 billion in an IPO in Hong Kong in December last year.



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