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Manchester (fans) united

posted 23 Aug 2011, 10:38 by Mpelembe   [ updated 23 Aug 2011, 10:43 ]
Fans attending the first Manchester United game since news emerged that their football club is looking to list on the Singapore Exchange say they hope the money raised will be used to help the team's chances.

UK-MANCHESTER UNITED -  English champions a record 19 times, Man U is more than just a mere football team.

It is a global super brand.

And now, it looks set to exploit that positition, by selling shares halfway 'round the world.

Sources with direct knowledge of the deal tell Reuters United have filed a preliminary application with the Singapore Exchange for a planned listing.

Ossian Shine, Reuters Asia Sports Editor saying

"They're looking to raise a billion dollars we understand and that is between 25-30% of the value they're giving themselves. United were valued last month by Forbes at 1.8bln so 3-4 billion is a hefty premium on that."

The news has raised eyebrows and more than a few questions: with global financial markets in disarray, why list now? Why Singapore? Why such a high valuation? And what will United's owners, the Glazer family, use the proceeds for?

The Glazers bought the club for one-point-three billion dollars in 2005. Despite the team's on-field success since then, supporters have criticised the Americans for saddling the club with a huge pile of debt.

Last year United's results showed gross debt of 522 million pounds, with a net loss of 84 million.

Football finance expert, Andy Green, says the Glazers could use a quick injection of cash.

Andy Green, football finance expert, saying

"They refinanced the PIK notes in 2010 November. That was 400 mln dollars worth. Where the money came from nobody knows. It presumably is more debt they took on personally. That needs to be refinanced. Their shopping mall business in the US is very weak because commercial property is weak. So I can see that there's a requirement for cash in the family that means that even if this isn't the best timing, you'd have to go for it."

Some believe this potential need for a quick deal could be behind the surprise choice of Singapore. Recent listings by Prada and L'Occitane have made Hong Kong the venue of choice for international brands. But Hong Kong has rules about unprofitable companies listing on its exchange.

Roger Tan, SIAS Research Managing Director saying

"I think HK is being picky. Singapore is being less picky. So between the two bourses, the route with the least resistance will probably be the one Manchester United wants to take."

Reuters reporter Nigel Hilditch saying 

"United fans are arriving at Old Trafford for tonight's game against Tottenham Hotspur. It's the first since news of the IPO broke. The intricacies of the deal may not interest everyone but fans here are United in their view of what the Glazers are trying to achieve."

Unidentified fan saying

"It's one way of getting rid of the debt and hopefully the money will be invested for the future."

Unidentified fan saying

"It's a good way of reducing the debt and providing funds for future players."

Unidentified fan saying

"If the Glazers just take the money they will be villified even more by United fans but if they wipe out the debt I don't see a problem."

Manchester United Supporters Trust, CEO, Duncan Drasdo, is keen for supporters to have a meaningful stake in the club but says such a high valuation concerns him:

Duncan Drasdo, MUST Chief Executive Officer saying

"If they can pull it off I think it would be quite a feat. But I'd be surprised if there's enough investors out there that are blinded by Manchester United's name. Certainly that's different when it comes to supporters and obviously we're interested in owning shares in the club but we're not really looking at from the point of view of return on investment. We're looking at it in terms of representation and feeling a sense of ownership of our club."

On the field of play, Mancher United has started the season in perfect form, but in the coming months there's sure to be much more scrutiny of its movements off the pitch.

Nigel Hilditch Reuters