September 29, 2016 / 3:22 PM / 2 years ago

AS Roma denies in talks with China Evergrande over stake sale

ROME (Reuters) - The majority shareholder in AS Roma denied on Thursday that he was in talks with China’s second-largest property developer, China Evergrande Group, over the sale of a stake in the Italian Serie A soccer club.

“I have never, ever, ever spoken with Evergrande or anyone else in China,” James Pallotta, a U.S. investor and president of AS Roma since 2012, told Reuters. “We are not in talks with anyone.”

Earlier a source close to the matter, who declined to be identified, had said China Evergrande Group was negotiating to buy an initial stake of around 30 percent in AS Roma, with an option to take a majority holding in the future.

The source said the valuation for the club was “very fluid”. Bloomberg and Italian media reported last week that Pallotta was considering selling a stake in the club.

Some 78 percent of AS Roma is held by Neep Roma Holding Spa, which is in turn controlled by Pallotta.

“This speculation is ridiculous,” Pallotta said when asked about the possibility of a tie-up with Evergrande.

A spokesman for Evergrande said he had not heard about any talks to buy AS Roma.

Last month, a consortium of Chinese investors signed a preliminary accord to buy AC Milan from former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

China Evergrande said on Wednesday that it was selling some 2.7 billion yuan ($405 million) of non-core assets to enable it to focus on its property business.

Reporting by Massimiliano di Giorgio and Massimo Gaia; Editing by Crispian Balmer

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