Team China Is Scoring Contracts at Soccer's World Cup, Not Goals

BEIJING (TheStreet) -- China is sending an army of toy armadillos but not a single soccer player to Brazil for this summer's FIFA World Cup tournament.

So among the only fans cheering China during the month-long sporting colossus, which starts next week, will be the country's biggest manufacturers of stuffed animals, solar panels and outdoor stadium display screens.

Almost every toy and trinket bearing the likeness of the World Cup's mascot, a pointy-nosed armadillo named Fuleco, has been made in China.

Chinese manufacturers of construction equipment and railroad cars are likewise applauding contracts they won for public infrastructure projects tied to the World Cup and the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics to be held in Rio De Janeiro. Brazil has been spending billions to prepare stadiums and transportation systems for these events.

Team China's most prominent star is solar panel manufacturer Yingli Green Energy (YGE), a supplier of sun-powered lighting for stadiums and parking lots at World Cup venues. It's the only Chinese company on the event's list of corporate sponsors, which also includes McDonald's (MCD), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Continental Tire (CTTAY).

TV viewers will see Yingli's logo splashed across advertising banners that line the playing fields. Higher up, about 1,500 of its solar modules can be seen ringing the top of the Estadio do Maracana stadium, which will host the championship match. Another venue for the games, Arena Pernambuco, is getting power from a local utility's solar farm recently built by Yingli.

A supplier contract for mascot products including Fuleco stuffed toys, figurines, slippers, car accessories, key chains and paper plates was awarded to Kayford Holdings, a Hong Kong subsidiary of the China state-owned conglomerate Landward Industrial. Landward's factories are near Shanghai in Zhejiang Province.

Landward expects this year's profits will beat what mascot manufacturers earned from past World Cup events, a company official named Li Hong recently told state media. "We can set the price ourselves," he said. A stuffed Fuleco "toy is priced at US$12.99, which means our profits will double or even triple."

Back in 2010, Chinese suppliers complained of low profits from sales of the vuvuzela horns popular among fans at that year's World Cup in South Africa. Now, according to one state media report, "Chinese companies have pricing power, and profits can be higher."

Another state company profiting from World Cup contracts is Chip Optech, which manufactured and installed four, huge LED display screens for soccer fan viewing inside Brasilia National Stadium, also called Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, in Brazil's capital.

In announcing the contract, the Shenzhen-based manufacturer called the screens "not only the pride of the company but of the Chinese people," and proving that China is no longer "the sick man of Asia."

Business victories aside, China will have to wait another four years for a chance to field a football club at a World Cup. Its team failed to qualify for this year's event after losing to Jordan in 2012. Team China has played in a World Cup tournament only once, in 2002, and was knocked out in the first round.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

>>Read more: The World Cup Is an Absolute Money Pit

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