Dalglish doubts on Newcastle float

Newcastle United yesterday pushed ahead plans to raise up to pounds 50m in a stock market flotation by Easter, despite increasing concerns about the choice of Kenny Dalglish as the new manager of the Premier League side.

Potential investors want Mr Dalglish, who succeeded Kevin Keegan earlier this week, to give a fuller explanation about the precise reasons why he walked out on his two previous employers, Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool.

"If it were me I would want some plausible reasons," said a source. "I'm not sure that Dalglish has gone far enough in explaining himself. He had to say something."

Newcastle yesterday declined to elaborate and a press conference to give more details about the estimated pounds 150m flotation was unexpectedly called off. Mr Dalglish would not attend a future press conference for the publication of Newcastle's pathfinder prospectus, a spokesman said.

Despite the continued confusion surrounding Mr Dalglish's reasons for leaving Liverpool and Blackburn, analysts said his appointment had restored the stock market's confidence and put the flotation back on track.

Newcastle said at least 10 per cent of the shares on offer would be available to the public, who would have to apply for at least pounds 500 worth of stock.

Newcastle's owner, Sir John Hall, will remain chairman of the football club while a new non-executive chairman for the holding company will be named later.

The club said its operating profit, before transfer fees, in the year to July 1996 was pounds 5.9m on revenues of pounds 29m.

At the end of last year, Newcastle revealed ambitious plans to build a 55,000-seat stadium to replace its home at St James' Park, which holds just over 36,000.

Sheffield United became the latest football club to float on the Stock Exchange yesterday when its shares raced to a big premium over their placing price of 60p. They closed at 101.5p after touching 145p, valuing the club at pounds 16.7m.