20 October 2018
FC Barcelona shows a picture on its microblog of a uniform emblazoned with Suning's name. Photo: FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona shows a picture on its microblog of a uniform emblazoned with Suning's name. Photo: FC Barcelona

Is FC Barcelona yet another gimmicky play from Suning?

It’s World Cup season and all thoughts seem to lead to soccer — even in business.

Already we’ve had Alibaba’s Jack Ma buying half of top Chinese soccer club Guangzhou Evergrande, and now Suning Commerce is said to be cooking up something big with FC Barcelona.

Suning general manager Li Bin wrote on his microblog Monday that the e-tailer will make a major announcement Wednesday, marking a big step for Chinese soccer. Some observers pounced on that to mean Suning is buying a stake in the Spanish football club.

But there’s less than even a slim chance of Suning taking a majority stake in the club. FC Barcelona is owned by its fans, with more than 155,000 club “socios” having roles akin to shareholders. The dispersed nature of the ownership would make it almost impossible for the Chinese company to buy the team.

Others speculate that Suning could be arranging some sort of summer program to send talented young Chinese players to Barcelona’s base camp in Spain for training.

Whatever it is, the answer will come Wednesday.

For investors the question will be whether there is the synergy between Suning’s e-commerce business and the soccer team to help Suning bounce back.

Starting out as a traditional brick-and-mortar electrical appliance vendor, Suning has been going full throttle to transform itself into an e-vendor in past few years. But results have been mixed and the company has lost money three quarters in a row.

Super platforms that sell almost everything on earth, like Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall, continue to rule the roost in China’s e-commerce world. Websites that specialize like cosmetics vendor Jumei or car site Autohome also do well carving out a niche. Sunning, though, seems to be going nowhere.

Shares of the home appliance maker surged over 7 percent on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange on Monday after the FC Barcelona news leaked out. Would it be a flash in the pan?

Suning shares more than doubled last year after it announced plans to ramp up its internet finance business. Since peaking in October, it has given up most of the gain as nothing much has happened.

Talking big won’t be enough this time or the excitement will go as quickly as it came.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

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