Business View: United leaves City and all the other clubs should follow

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This afternoon Manchester United travel to the St Mary's stadium to play Southampton. The game means nothing to United, who will finish a disappointing third in the Premier League for the second season running, but everything to Southampton, who are fighting relegation.

This afternoon Manchester United travel to the St Mary's stadium to play Southampton. The game means nothing to United, who will finish a disappointing third in the Premier League for the second season running, but everything to Southampton, who are fighting relegation.

For investors tempted into the overheated market for football shares in the late-1990s, the match is one of contrasting fortunes. Southampton Leisure, the quoted parent of Southampton, is an illiquid, undesirable investment which (like almost all the 20 clubs that at one time or other were listed in the UK) probably should never have been introduced to the stock market and certainly should not still be there. Those shareholders who have stuck with the company will have seen their investment lose three-fifths of its value in the past year.

United will almost certainly depart from the quoted market shortly after Malcolm Glazer secures 75 per cent of the shares for his £790m bid. As he was on 74.8 per cent on Friday night, we won't have to wait too long. Shareholders United, the group that claims it has over 20,000 United fans who oppose Mr Glazer's bid, says they will do everything they can to block him. They claim to speak for 18 per cent of United's shares, though I suspect the block isn't that solid. However, probably enough United shareholders will say no to Mr Glazer for him to fall short of the 97 per cent he needs to force them to sell to him.

This will leave an uncomfortable rump of minority shareholders in a private firm controlled by Mr Glazer. Not a great place to be, but better than it has been for some other football investors.

United has been the beacon for the football sector on the stock market. Not only has it been the most valuable and most liquid investment, it has been the only one to deliver relatively solid profits without surprises. Unlike most quoted football clubs, it does not have a dominant investor - a problem that has blighted Aston Villa and Newcastle United to the point that shareholders' democracy barely exists, and is now troubling Tottenham Hotspur. In truth, it is probably the only quoted football club that has justified its listing. Now it is going, will all the others please follow suit. The football sector is as sick as a parrot and should be as dead as one.

Get Euronext to pay up

The London Stock Exchange is another business sitting in God's waiting room. Having received bid approaches from Deutsche Börse and Euronext, the process was put into abeyance by a Competition Commission inquiry, which is not expected to come to a conclusion before September.

Meanwhile, the Börse bid has been broken into pieces, largely through the actions of two hedge funds. Both the chairman and the chief executive of the Börse quit last week. Needless to say, the Börse is no longer in the market for the LSE. But is Euronext?

Market rumours suggest Euronext might turn its attentions to buying the Börse, leaving the LSE on the shelf. But I think this is off the mark. The European regulators would not like the deal because it would give Euronext more than 90 per cent of the derivatives market; Euronext would not want the Börse's settlement business; and the LSE is still the biggest cash equities market in Europe, and if there is going to be consolidation, it has to be part of it. LSE shareholders should not worry about these Börse rumours. They should focus on getting Euronext to pay a full price for the LSE.

Name the day, Sir Ken

Lord Hollick's three decades at United Business Media came to a sour end last week with a shareholder revolt. Will Sir Ken Morrison's five decades at Wm Morrison end even more sourly?

After an impeccable record since the Bradford-based supermarket group floated in the 1960s, Morrisons has lurched from bad to worse since buying the ailing Safeway. Sir Ken's reputation and family shareholding have protected him so far. But he has had to kick out his finance director and there are mutterings about his chief executive. Sir Ken needs to bring in new blood and timetable his retirement, or else the City will force retirement upon him.

j.nisse@independent.co.uk

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