Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand hold the Champions League and English Premiership trophies, August 2008. Manchester United are the most successful club in English football. – File photo by AFP
Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand hold the Champions League and English Premiership trophies, August 2008. Manchester United are the most successful club in English football. – File photo by AFP

LONDON: Manchester United Football Club have picked the New York Stock Exchange to make their stock market debut, ending months of speculation over where the world’s best-supported football club would list.

After first eyeing a Hong Kong IPO, the former English Premier League champions had planned a $1 billion listing in Singapore in the second half of last year before putting plans on hold because of market turmoil.

The US-owned club filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering of its Class A ordinary shares in New York.

In the United States, the amount of money a company says it plans to raise in its first IPO filings is used to calculate registration fees. The final size of the IPO could be different.

Thomson Reuters publication IFR reported last month that the club, which has been English champions a record 19 times and features players such as England’s Wayne Rooney, had dropped its plans for an Asian listing in favour of a US listing.

The company filing for a much lower amount than $1 billion originally expected does not come as much of a surprise, said Josef Schuster, founder of Chicago-based financial services firm IPOX Schuster LLC.

“The smaller the float, the higher the relative valuation can be...This may just be a strategy initially to make it appear like a low float IPO,” Schuster said. “Traders may believe if the deal is very low, then the company can pop at the opening.”

Manchester United has a global fan base of 659 million, according to a survey commissioned by the club and carried out last year by market researcher Kantar. Almost half of United’s supporters were in the Asia-Pacific region.

“It remains to be seen how much the football club is going to benefit in the U.S. where the sport is not very popular ...The perfect place for it to have listed should have been London,” Jay Ritter, a University of Florida IPO expert told Reuters.

The club, founded in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR Football Club, plays its home games at Old Trafford in Greater Manchester.

The club’s American proprietors, the Glazer family, are well known in the United States as owners of American football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

However, they have faced opposition from United fans after taking over the club in 2005 in a leveraged buyout that left it saddled with hefty debt repayments.

The club’s total debt as on March 31 was 423.3 million pounds according to the filing.

It intends to use the net proceeds from this offering to repay debt.

“It is going to come down to the valuation. US investors are not going to jump on it right away,” IPOX Schuster LLC’s Schuster said.

The Glazer family will hold class B shares, which will have 10 votes each representing 67 percent of the voting power of all shareholders, keeping the club’s management within their control.

U.S. investors are familiar with the dual-class share structure, which has been used by household names such as Google, Facebook and News Corp.

Jefferies, Credit Suisse, J.P. Morgan , Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank Securities are underwriting the IPO, Manchester United said in a preliminary prospectus. This leaves out Morgan Stanley, which h was one of the investment banks originally expected to underwrite the Singapore listing.

United did not reveal how many shares it plans to sell or their expected price.


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