Sunderland abandons stock market listing

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The Independent Online

Sunderland Plc, the owner of the First Division football club, cancelled its listing on the London Stock Exchange yesterday, citing the lack of potential to raise funds in the City in the near future.

Sunderland Plc, the owner of the First Division football club, cancelled its listing on the London Stock Exchange yesterday, citing the lack of potential to raise funds in the City in the near future.

The chairman, Bob Murray, who owns 37 per cent of the group's shares, said he believed there was now only one club, Manchester United, that suited a stock market listing.

Sunderland said that abandoning its stock market quotation would be cost effective and would enable the directors to devote more time to running the business. In line with most publicly owned football clubs, Sunderland has been shunned by City investors in recent years.

Its flotation on the stock market enabled the group to raise £10m to put towards building its 48,000 capacity stadium, the Stadium of Light, and later the company raised a further £13m when BSkyB bought a sizeable shareholding. But over the past few years, the shares have been friendless. They have come down from more than 600p in 2000 to just 60p before yesterday's announcement, valuing the club at just £5m.

Many of the football clubs that floated in the mid-1990s have abandoned the stock market for one reason or another. Chelsea Village, the group that used to own Chelsea, was bought out last year by Roman Abramovich; Leeds United's holding company went into receivership; and Leicester City was taken over and taken private.

A handful of clubs, such as Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Celtic and Hearts, remain listed but there is virtually no institutional interest in their shares following the City's falling out of love with football after many of its companies failed to rein in player wages and failed to deliver the hoped for profits from digital media as quickly or as handsomely as was once expected.

Mr Murray said that Sunderland had appointed Brewin Dolphin Securities to broker shares for existing shareholders who wanted to sell out their holdings. He said he was confident the club could push for promotion again this season - Sunderland reached the play-offs last season - and he predicted that season ticket sales would beat last year's 20,000.

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