Tottenham plans share issue to raise £10m

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The Independent Online

Tottenham Hotspur, the Premiership football club, said it is considering raising up to £10m via a possible share issue, while newly relegated Sunderland said it was in talks with unions about deferring players' wages.

Meanwhile, shares in Aston Villa rose 14p to 187.5p on talk that a Venezuela-based billionaire is in talks to buy the 34 per cent stake held by its chairman Doug Ellis.

It is thought Tottenham is looking to raise around £10m for new player signings ahead of the new season starting next month. The club has relatively modest debts of around £17m and wants to keep borrowings low.

It is understood that Spurs sounded out City shareholders in the past few weeks about a fund raising but has not met with a positive response. This could force Enic, the leisure group which owns 29.9 per cent of the shares, to underwrite the issue.

In the event of the share issue proving unpopular with other investors Enic would then be obliged to pick up the unwanted shares, increasing its holding. Enic may then have to launch an offer for all the issued share capital of Tottenham unless it can secure a waiver from the Takeover Panel.

The club said: "The board of Tottenham confirms that it is in the early stages of considering a fund-raising in conjunction with its advisers to secure additional new funds.... A further announcement will be made in due course."

The comments came as the club said it would record a loss of at least £5m for the year to June, largely due to the write down on the value of players such as Sergei Rebrov. The shares were unchanged at 22.5p.

Tottenham is one of several top UK clubs said to have been considered by Roman Abramovitch before his takeover of Chelsea. It is understood that Mr Abramovitch met Spurs chairman Daniel Levy several months ago, although the club said this was for a more general discussion on European club finances rather than a takeover.

Sunderland shares fell 12 per cent to a new low of 47.5p after the club said it was in discussions with its players and the Professional Football Association about a possible deferral of a proportion of salaries until 2004.

Bob Murray, the Sunderland chairman, said: "We have been in discussion with the union for the past three months as part of the planning process to deal with the financial implications of relegation."

In April Sunderland announced that it was axing jobs and parting company with its chief executive as it prepared for the drop in the Nationwide league.

The North-eastern club, which sacked two managers last season has also been keen to sell players to raise cash and reduce its wage bill. Half-year losses totalled £5.4m and the club said its wage bill had reached an "unacceptable level", Mr Murray said.

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