Chinese fund IDG Capital to take 20% in French Olympique Lyonnais soccer club

Chinese investment fund IDG Capital Partners has agreed to take a 20 per cent stake in Olympique Lyonnais for a total of 100 million euros ($112 million), the French soccer club’s owner said in a statement on Friday.

IDG will help OL Group – the listed company that owns the club – promote it in China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and will get two to three seats on OL Group’s board.

The Chinese group will buy new OL Group shares and subordinated convertible bonds, and a substantial part of the new funds will be used to reduce the firm’s debt, which will lower its financing costs and allow it to refinance its debt.

IDG will buy new shares at 3.34 euros per share, 18.5 percent above their last closing price. The bonds will be bought at a 60.71 percent premium above their last traded price.

OL Group also said that IDG is committed to hold on to its shares for at least two years.

The OL investment comes amid a flurry of activity from Chinese investors, who have spent around $3 billion on European clubs since December in a bid to boost the country’s influence in the sport and get a slice of lucrative television broadcast revenues.

Last week, Fininvest, a family holding company lead by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, agreed to sell 99.93 percent of AC Milan to a group of Chinese investors in a deal that valued the famous club at 740 million euros ($826 million), including 220 million euros of debt.

The AC Milan investing consortium includes Chinese development and investment fund Haixa Capital and Yonghong Li, chairman of Sino-Europe Sports Investment Management Changxing, which have committed to invest 350 million euros over the next three years.