Thursday December 22 2016
Sino-Europe: ‘We have a Plan B’

Yonghong Li of Sino-Europe Sports assures “we’ve identified an alternative investment structure” if the Chinese government delays the purchase of Milan.

The deal was supposed to be completed this month, but the consortium were forced to delay until March as they were not permitted to move the money out of China.

“I’m sorry for the fans who, quite legitimately, wanted the sale to be done quickly,” the President of Sino-Europe told Ansa.

“But it’s right that it’s like this, the [Supercoppa] final was achieved by the previous ownership and it’s only right for them to experience it and hopefully win it.

“Our ambition is to continue Milan’s success, we hope Silvio Berlusconi can lift many more trophies in the future as honorary President.

“The delay? In China, every investment in foreign countries is subject to approval by Chinese regulators.

“Recently the authorities announced new regulations on investments abroad, and that applies to deals announced before they were made public, as is the case in the acquisition of Milan by SES.

“The SES team is working on the authorisation process which the new rules require, but in general all pending requests, not just ours, are subject to these measures.”

Why didn’t the group just buy €200m worth of shares in the Rossoneri straight away?

“Because it wouldn’t have been authorised. The regulations restrict Chinese investments abroad regardless of how large they are.

“At this point SES isn’t allowed to hold any equity in Milan.”

Chinese groups have bought English teams though…

“Those deals were closed before the new measures came in.”

Despite the problems with the investment, Yonghong Li insisted that the money is there, and there are backup plans in place.

“SES has actually raised an amount which is higher than the capital investment, the availability of these funds is subject to the completion of the procedures laid-down by the regulator.

“SES has identified an alternative investment structure, which would solve the issues imposed by the new regulations.

“At this stage we’re confident that the relevant permissions will be granted by the date agreed with Fininvest, but we’d rather not go into details about the Plan B which is respectful of the existing regulations.

“Personally, I’m totally committed to building Milan’s future and that was recently confirmed by the payment of a second deposit to Fininvest.

“The second instalment was paid directly by a company owned by SES.

“The agreements with Fininvest provide that SES will be responsible for the losses sustained by Milan from July onward, that’s one of the main reasons which justify sharing the decision making.”

One of the worrying aspects of the deal is that no-one appears to know the name of the potential investors, and Sino-Europe’s President wouldn’t be drawn.

“Unfortunately we can’t give any more information on that issue until the closing, and in fact an early disclosure would complicate an already delicate process for obtaining the necessary authorisations.

“In addition, SES has assumed confidentiality obligations with regard to many of the investors, and their involvement is subject to government approval.

“For these reasons, we can’t name the investors before the closing. However, in accordance with the agreements we’ve told Fininvest the investors, in confidence, and we constantly update them on the evolution of the approval process.

“We won’t comment on the rumours about the investors’ names. In general, Chinese financial institutions are actively supporting Chinese investment abroad and it’s worth remembering that SES is an investment fund.

“The board of Milan will consist of representatives of investors and independent members, with the sole purpose of building the best Milan we can to get the best results for the investors and the team.”

Some have even accused Silvio Berlusconi, the current Milan President, of using the deal to move some of his own money from China to Italy…

“That’s completely unfounded,” Yonghong Li warned.

“Money laundering is a criminal offence in Italy and in China. The Milan operation is being done with Chinese investors, and is fully compliant with national and international law.”

Finally, the Sino-Europe chief was asked about the January transfer window.

“The January transfer window will be done at zero cost. That’s the joint will of Sino-Europe and fininvest.

“Adriano Galliani will deal with the transfer market, and any deals must be approved by SES.

“As I’ve said, the club’s operating expenses will be borne by SES after the closing, and until then we can’t have a say on every matter related to spending.

“On the other hand, in the intervening period between the signing of the preliminary contract and the closing, each transaction will be evaluated by both parties.”

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