Chinese property and entertainment giant Wanda Group, which formally took a 20 percent stake in Spanish football club Atletico Madrid in April, will buy at least three more sports companies this year, its chairman said.

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

As well as the 45 million euro (now $50 million) Atletico share, Wanda this year paid 1.05 billion euros for Swiss sports marketing group Infront, which is headed by the nephew of outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter and holds some broadcasting rights to the World Cup.

Wanda is looking to increase its influence in the global sports business, as Beijing bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics and rumours swirl that China could seek to host the 2026 football World Cup.

Wang’s phrasing suggests that the “at least three” deals do not include the Atletico or Infront acquisitions. 

The billionaire, a diehard football fan, did not reveal specific targets, but said they should have activities in China and worldwide sports marketing or ownership rights, the report late Tuesday said.

Wang also claimed that “there will soon be good news announced about Chinese football“, without giving any details, Xinhua added.

Wanda Group could not be reached immediately for comment. 

Bloomberg News ranks Wang as China’s richest man and the ninth-wealthiest in the world, with a net worth of $42.1 billion.

His Beijing-based conglomerate, which has interests in hotels, entertainment and retail, last year saw a 30 percent jump in revenue to 242.5 billion yuan.

It bought US cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings in 2012 and has moved to branch out into film production and theme parks.

Its listed arm, Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co., raised $3.7 billion in an initial public offering in Hong Kong in December. – Agence France-Presse

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