City pours scorn on talk of £1.5bn bid for Arsenal

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The Independent Online

The City of London reacted with intense scepticism last night to reports that there is an imminent bid £1.5bn for Arsenal from a Middle East consortium.

With the future of the club a source of speculation for years and the true commitment of majority owner Stan Kroenke to the business as yet untested by a serious offer, sources close to the club and to football financiers were dismissive.

Reports said a combined bid, the biggest-ever for a football club on the mooted terms, is on the way from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

But a City source said: "The UAE and Qatar will never do a football deal together. Qatar might do something on their own, but they wouldn't talk about it, they'd do it. They wouldn't negotiate through the media in this way."

David Bick, a football finance expert who has advised on several takeover deals, said: "The valuation is nonsensical. Arsenal are odds on not to qualify for the Champions League, so £1.5bn is toppy to say the least."

While such a deal would give Mr Kroenke, a 67 per cent shareholder, a profit of about £400m on his investment, news of the bid was regarded as little more than troublemaking by those keen to flush out a bidder.

One source said: "Qatar might buy something in England but when you have a single shareholder, you don't negotiate through the media. There are a few conspiracy theories going around about who put this out."

The Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov holds almost 30 per cent of the stock and while relations between his side and Mr Kroenke's are said to be cold, they are not at war.

Arsenal insisted yesterday that Mr Kroenke has no plans to sell his majority stake in Arsenal. "Stan Kroenke is committed to Arsenal for the long term and has no intention of selling his stake," said communications director Mark Gonnella.