Commentary

Europe's hot investment market might not be all it's cracked up to be

Like Warren Buffett, when Wang Jianlin speaks, people listen. Wang is China's richest man, and his Dalian Wanda Group is a major sports investor. Earlier in the year, the Wanda Group made news as the first Chinese company to sign up as a top-level FIFA partner.

That doesn't mean Wang is hot on the European market, which has been flooded with Chinese investors.

AC Milan and Inter Milan are now controlled by Chinese firms. English club West Bromwich Albion and France's Auxerre, now in Ligue 2, have also been purchased by Chinese groups, and Manchester City, Aston Villa and Wolves in England and Lyon in France have received an influx of Chinese money.

Dalian Wanda Group owns a stake in Spanish club Atletico Madrid, bun Wang isn't eaxctly gung-ho about the European club market.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters in Beijing, Wang said investors shouldn't expect to make money on European club soccer.

"It can give you influence, but it won't make you money," he said. "Every year you're burning through cash, that is certain. It's eye-catching, it attracts interest, but it's hard to make money."

Wang said his firm preferred to invest in the sports event business aligned with entertainment and tourism, which he views as solid businesses.

"We've already invested over $2 billion in sports-related acquisitions," Wang said. "But sports for us is perhaps different to what most people think of. We don't want to acquire clubs ... because these sorts of companies don't make a profit."

In July, Dalian Wanda Group reportedly was pushing plans for a Super League to rival to the UEFA Champions League. Its offer: more places for Europe's big clubs and more money from media rights.

Reuters reported that brokers working on valuing club deals for Chinese investors say the prices they are buying at make no sense.

"They are even buying minority stakes, where they have no control," said one broker. "Many of these teams are cash flow negative."

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