Football clubs play away for stock market listings


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The Independent Online

Every season, Premier League football matches are broadcast to 720 million homes across the world, making “the beautiful game” one of Britain’s most popular exports.

Of the fans in 212 countries that watch the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal battle it out every week, Asian fans are among the most fervent. It is no surprise the fast-growing region has become a battleground for major clubs as they look to grow overseas revenues.

“Asia has a huge football fan base, estimated at more than  1 billion people, and there is a vast appetite for Premier League football, which has driven television revenue deals in the region,” Neil Patey, football finance expert at accountancy EY, says. 

“Premier League Asian TV deals are currently worth close to £1bn through to 2016 and advertising/sponsorship from companies such as Samsung and Chang are also boosting English football finances. Not only that, but with major Premier League clubs holding pre-season tours in Asia, shirt sales and other merchandising are also growing.”

Cardiff City is the latest Premier League football  club to exploit this potential, having been promoted  from the Championship earlier this year.

Its Malaysian billionaire owner, Vincent Tan, looks set to list the club in Singapore next year after plans to float in his own country were thwarted by regulators.

The Premier League club is likely to join Singapore’s small-cap Catalist exchange, according to reports, after concerns were raised about Cardiff’s cash flow.

The size of the initial public offering (IPO) has not yet been decided but if Cardiff goes to market, it will follow in the footsteps of Manchester United, whose own listing on the New York Stock Exchange raised $233m (£142m).

Cardiff is being advised  by the Malaysian banking group CIMB.

Mr Tan, who took control of the club in 2010, hopes to promote Cardiff’s interests in the fast-growing region, and has already changed its home strip to red and incorporated a red dragon in the club’s badge for marketing purposes.

Experts say it is no surprise that clubs are looking overseas to list, although they do not expect a glut of them over the next few months.

One well-placed source said: “For any IPO to succeed, there has to be strong investor appetite, and there are plenty of Asian investors willing to back football clubs unlike in the UK, where shareholders look to back stocks that pay regular dividends.

“I don’t think there will be a massive rush to list overseas but clubs will continue to exploit the growing commercial opportunities abroad.”