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Refinancing 230 million euro of Inter Milan debt

JAKARTA -- Italy's legendary football club Internazionale Milano, or Inter Milan, plans to refinance 230 million euro ($313 million) -- 70% of its overall debt -- to stabilize finances, it was revealed on Thursday.

     Erick Thohir, the Indonesian businessman who became Inter Milan president last year, revealed the financial strategy to reporters after the annual shareholders' meeting for Intermedia Capital, a local TV company of which he is also president.

     Thohir said the debt, which has so far been funded by eight Italian lenders, will be refinanced with international banks. The deal will extend the repayment period from one year to five, allowing the club to evolve a long term investment strategy. The deal is being coordinated by Goldman Sachs.

     Thohir said refinancing will "improve our cash flow and restore confidence in the club." The refinanced debt will also facilitate upgrades of the club's training facilities. A separate budget has been allocated for player acquisitions in the run-up to the new season.

     Thohir is the co-founder of Indonesian conglomerate Mahaka Group, and led a consortium of Indonesian investors that late last year acquired a 70% stake from the club's former owner, Massimo Moratti, for a reported 250 million euro.  

     Inter Milan has topped the Italian Serie A league 18 times, and won numerous other championships, but has struggled in recent years, finishing fifth last season. Fans hope Thohir's deep pockets and enterprise will attract star players and restore the club's past glory.

     "People say the popularity (of) Serie A has declined, but I disagree," Thohir said. "Foreign investors are paying very close attention to Italian teams."

     Reporters probed Thohir on rumors that he wants Lionel Messi for Inter Milan after the Argentinian superstar scored twice in Wednesday's World Cup tie with Nigeria. Thohir responded: "I have never said I will buy Messi."

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