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Chinese PE firm to acquire Spanish sports rights group Imagina

Chinese private equity firm Orient Hontai has struck a deal to buy a majority stake in Imagina Media Audiovisual S.L. for US$1 billion, Jaume Roures, founder and chairman of the Spanish sports media rights group, told Reuters in an interview.

Imagina, known for one of its subsidiaries Mediapro, owns distribution rights to the Spanish La Liga soccer championship, according to the Oct. 17 report.

The shareholders of Imagina have struck a preliminary deal with Orient Hontai to sell a 54% stake in the company, according to Roures, who expects the deal to be closed "during the first quarter of 2018."

Spanish private equity firm Torreal is selling a 23% stake, Mexican broadcaster Grupo Televisa SAB is selling 19%, and Gerard Romy, one of Imagina's founders, is selling a 12% stake in the company. Roures and Tatxo Benet, the remaining two founders of Imagina who still hold a 12% stake each, will remain at the helm of the company, based on a shareholders' agreement with Orient Hontai.

The deal, which values the company at €1.6 billion, would require the Chinese government's approval, amid the government's ongoing crackdown on overseas sports investments in recent months, Roures said.

French media conglomerate Vivendi SA, China's Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd. and U.S. media company Liberty Media Corp. also bid for Imagina.

The move is reportedly the latest in a string of deals from Chinese investors seeking to turn China into a global soccer giant.