Glazer raises stake in United to close on buy-out trigger point

Malcolm Glazer edged closer to triggering a mandatory bid for Manchester United last night by increasing his stake in the club to 27.63 per cent. When any shareholder's stock level rises above 29.99 per cent of a company they are obliged under Stock Market regulations to make an offer for the whole company.

Malcolm Glazer edged closer to triggering a mandatory bid for Manchester United last night by increasing his stake in the club to 27.63 per cent. When any shareholder's stock level rises above 29.99 per cent of a company they are obliged under Stock Market regulations to make an offer for the whole company.

Glazer was thwarted last week in his attempts to buy 28.89 per cent of the company from the Irish racing tycoons, John Magnier and J P McManus. Fans now fear that Glazer has his sights set instead on gaining a simple majority of the club's shares to take effective control. If he reaches the "trigger point", which now seems within his grasp, he would need just over 20 per cent of the remaining shares to reach his assumed target of effective control. Though the Irishmen would be unlikely to sell their shares, that would still leave the owners of some 40 per cent of the company open to offers. Around half of that 40 per cent is owned by City institutions, who might be attracted by a Glazer offer.

Glazer, the 76-year-old American owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL franchise, paid £17m yesterday to buy six million shares to add to the 25.3 per cent of the company he already owned at the opening of business.

The development did not go down well with United supporters, who have spent the last fortnight campaigning fiercely against Glazer. Members of the influential Shareholders United group believe the volatility in share price caused by Glazer's actions is having a destabilising effect on the club and wanted Glazer to state his intentions. Under Stock Exchange rules, the Takeover Panel can only impose a deadline on Glazer if instructed to do so by United.

SU yesterday wrote to United's chief executive, David Gill, asking him to approach the Takeover Panel to instruct them to order Glazer to clarify his intentions. "This affair cannot but be damaging to the business of the company and harmful to the interests of Shareholders United members as well as other shareholders," said SU's chairman, Nick Towle, in his letter. "The share purchases by Glazer do not clarify anything for shareholders, it only intensifies the impression of a company 'under siege'.

"We therefore expect the Board in the next few days to request the Takeover Panel to impose a deadline for Glazer to 'put up or shut up' in order that this damaging affair be resolved as quickly as possible."

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