Man City owners expand empire

The Etihad stadium, home of Manchester City in the UK. The owners, City Football Group (CFG), are expanding their global stable of clubs to eight in countries from China to Japan to the US. (Shutterstock)
Updated 29 November 2019

Man City owners expand empire

  • Mumbai City FC deal comes a day after Abu Dhabi-owned CFG becomes most valuable soccer group in the world

MUMBAI: The owners of Premier League champions Manchester City have agreed to buy 65 percent of Indian soccer team Mumbai City FC, expanding their global stable of clubs to eight in countries from China to Japan to the US.

The City Football Group (CFG) announced the deal just a day after it agreed to sell a stake to the US private equity firm Silver Lake for $500 million, making it the most valuable soccer group in the world with a $4.8 billion price tag.

While rivals such as Manchester United have focused on building their brand and global following based on one team, CFG has acquired clubs around the world and modelled them on the Manchester City style of play and off-field organization.

The strategy has helped to boost the exposure and popularity of the Premier League champions, whose fortunes have been transformed after decades in the doldrums thanks to an infusion of cash from Abu Dhabi since 2008.

Announcing the Mumbai City deal, Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano said that the group had been looking for years at soccer in India and the Indian Super League (ISL), which is currently in its sixth season.

“Our goal is long term, we are here to stay,” he told a news conference in Mumbai. 

“We are not here to lose money, we will look to help the league generally improve so that everybody makes money, including us. It will take time, we are patient.”

Mumbai City FC’s home ground is the Mumbai Football Arena, which has a capacity of just 8,000 while the team is sitting in seventh place in the 10-team ISL after five games.

“We believe that this investment will deliver transformative benefits to Mumbai City FC, to City Football Group and to Indian Football as a whole,” CFG Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said in the statement.

Reuters had reported earlier on Thursday that CFG, which is majority owned by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was likely to acquire a majority stake in Mumbai City.

Existing shareholders in the Mumbai club, including Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor and chartered accountant Bimal Parekh, will control the remaining 35 percent stake.

Cricket-mad India is a massive underachiever as far as soccer is concerned and the country of 1.3 billion people has yet to make a single appearance at a World Cup final.

A number of European clubs have, however, set up academies on a franchise basis to get a foothold in a potentially huge market. Spain’s La Liga has invested in a network of training centers to keep an eye on emerging talent and to encourage sales of strips for teams such as Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Traditionally quite popular in Goa, Kerala and Kolkata, interest in soccer in India has grown over the past decade with the arrival of hundreds of artificial pitches in cities such as Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi, which have drawn in a young population previously focused chiefly on cricket.

“It is a great endorsement of the increasing appeal of Indian football and for all football fans in India,” Nita Ambani, founder chairperson of the ISL, said in the City Group statement.

English Premier League and European Champions League games now draw millions of viewers and are easily available on India’s big streaming networks for subscriptions of $7 to $13 a year.

The ISL is promoted by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries and TV network Star India, which is owned by Walt Disney.

According to the Broadcast Audience Research Council, soccer had a total of 498 million viewers in India in 2018 last year compared with 741 million for cricket.

Mumbai City has had Premier League veterans such as Freddie Ljungberg, Nicolas Anelka and Diego Forlan as marquee players in the past. The first edition of the ISL was won by Atletico de Kolkata, which then counted Atletico Madrid as a co-owner. 


Saudi Arabia: All options open to OPEC+ as China virus weighs on price

Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman Al-Saud, pictured here at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, warned it was too early for OPEC+ to make a decision on oil supply. (Reuters)
Updated 50 min 26 sec ago

Saudi Arabia: All options open to OPEC+ as China virus weighs on price

  • Group will meet in Vienna in March to set policy, with the possibility of further oil production cuts firmly on the table

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman Al-Saud said all options were open at an OPEC+ meeting in early March, including further cuts in oil production, Al Arabiya reported. But he added it was too early to make a call on the need for more cuts.
“I can’t judge now if the market needs additional cuts because I haven’t seen the balances for January and February,” he said.
He added that when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies led by Russia convened for an emergency meeting in March, the grouping would study where the market is and “objectively decide” if more cuts are needed.
OPEC+ agreed in December to widen supply cuts by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.7 million bpd until the end of March.
Prince Abdul Aziz said the aim of OPEC+ was to reduce the size of the seasonal inventory build that takes place in the first half of the year.
OPEC+ is due to meet in Vienna on March 5 and 6 to set their policy. A ministerial monitoring committee for the deal will meet in Vienna on March 4.
Oil slipped below $62 a barrel on Friday and was heading for a weekly decline as concern that a virus in China may spread, curbing travel and oil demand, overshadowed supply cuts.

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman Al-Saud. (Reuters)

The virus has prompted the suspension of public transport in 10 Chinese cities. Health authorities fear the infection rate could accelerate over the Lunar New Year holiday this weekend, when millions of Chinese travel.
Global benchmark Brent is down almost 5 percent this week, its third consecutive weekly drop. US crude was also on course for a weekly decline.

FASTFACT

2nd - China is the world’s second largest oil consumer.

“One should be prepared for negative surprises when it comes to Chinese demand,” said Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank. “The impact of this is all the greater because the restrictions are being imposed during the busiest travel season for the Chinese.”
China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer so any slowdown in travel would show up on demand forecasts.
Offering some support for prices was the US Energy Information Administration’s latest weekly supply report, which showed crude inventories fell 405,000 barrels in the week to Jan. 17.
Nonetheless, the upside for prices was limited. Oil inventories in the wider industrialized world are above the five-year average according to OPEC figures, which analysts say is limiting the impact on prices of supply losses.
“Such is the bearish pressure that a raft of ongoing crude supply outages are not gaining much traction,” said analysts at JBC Energy in a report.