Berlusconi gives 'extra-time' to sluggish Chinese investors

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, seen in December 2016, is the owner and president of football club AC Milan

AC Milan owner and president Silvio Berlusconi has backed giving the Chinese Sino-Europe Sports consortium "extra time" to complete the purchase of the Serie A giants following the latest delay in the takeover.

"They asked for some extra time and I don't see what there is to worry about," Berlusconi told Il Tempo newspaper in an interview to be published on Sunday.

A bid by SES, who have made a down payment of 200m euros on a deal that values the Serie A giants at 740 million euros ($825.4 million), appeared to hit the rocks Friday after they failed to complete the takeover by the agreed March 3 deadline.

SES later claimed "circumstances beyond its control" had led to the latest delay to a deal that will see the seven-time European champions follow city rivals Inter Milan into Chinese ownership.

Despite reports suggesting an irate Berlusconi could pull out, the former Italian prime minister added: "The investors have made considerable payments as a demonstration of their intentions. This is very important, not just for Fininvest, but also the fans of AC Milan."

Fininvest is Berlusconi's holding company, and early Friday morning it released a statement clearly calling for SES to get their house in order.

Confirming the sale had been postponed, Fininvest said in a statement it "welcomes the opportunity to enter into an agreement with Sino-Sports Europe that will lead to the sale of Milan as soon as possible".

It was read out by club CEO Adriano Galliani to increasingly angry shareholders on Friday morning.

A hastily-released statement by SES on Friday evening said: "While expressing its disappointment at the delay in completing the deal, due to circumstances outwith its control, SES confirms it is strongly committed to continue working with Fininvest to complete the deal as soon as possible, and that a detailed investment plan is ready."

Reports claim the deal is now scheduled to go through at the start of April.