Saturday August 11, 2012
United slashes price for US share offer
WASHINGTON: Britain's world-renowned soccer club Manchester United has slashed the price of its US share offer, cutting the proceeds from yesterday's listing to US$233mil from a hoped-for US$300mil.
The fabled team, mired in debt since 2005 after a heavily leveraged takeover by the Glazer family of Miami-based investors, cut the price for the 16.7 million shares on offer to US$14 late Thursday from the planned US$16-US$20 range.
The company gave no reason for the decision but it comes amid doubts about the club's ability to boost profits as long as it carries such a hefty debt burden Morningstar analysts estimated a fair price at just US$10.
Investors have also become wary about aggressively priced initial public offerings (IPOs) after the much-promoted Facebook launch soured, with the social networking giant's shares slumping by nearly half since its May 18 listing.
Critics assailed the Glazers' plan to allocate just half of the IPO proceeds to reducing the team's current £423mil (US$660mil) debt burden.
The other half will go to the Glazers themselves, who are contributing 8.33 million shares to the IPO.
In addition, despite putting 10% of the shares of Manchester United Ltd on sale, the Glazers will retain 97% voting control of the listed company via their lock on its “B” shares, which have 10 times the voting power of the “A” shares being sold to the public.
That arrangement reportedly caused regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore to balk at a listing in their markets where the club had hoped to tap the interest of tens of millions of Asian fans.
Spreadex trader Shavaz Dhalla in London highlighted the issue of control.
“The club has probably now realised that owning a part of one of the most successful sports clubs in the world will not compensate for denying a dividend as well as equal voting rights to prospective shareholders,” Dhalla said.
The price still leaves the legendary football franchise valued at US$2.3bil, well above any of its rivals, including Real Madrid, which sports much larger profits.
Home to stars such as Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United is the most successful club in English football history with a massive global fan base, especially in Asia.
But it has struggled with the debt loaded onto the team's books since tycoon Malcolm Glazer and his family of investors in sports teams and real estate took over in 2005.
That debt, critics say, has steadily eroded its ability to compete for top talent in an ever-costlier player transfer market. AFP