Scramble expected for shares in Aston Villa

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The Independent Online
A frantic goalmouth scramble for shares in Aston Villa looks in prospect despite the end-of- season blues afflicting the shares of most quoted soccer clubs.

Villa, fourth in the Premier League, is the latest to join the City's growing list of stock market entrants and today's prospectus will detail plans to raise between pounds 15m and pounds 20m with the placing of new shares.

The listing is expected to value the company at up to pounds 140m. Financial institutions have promised to put up the bulk of the new money. But Villa fans, who include 20,000 season ticket holders, have been earmarked about 25 per cent of the new equity on offer. Among those season ticket holders are Tony Hales , chief executive of drinks giant Allied Domecq, and Mervyn King, economics director of the Bank of England. Mr Hales is joining the Villa board as a non-executive.

The biggest club in Birmingham, Villa has been a consistent performer at the top of English soccer, winning the Coca-Cola Cup twice in the past five years and playing in European competition in three out of the past four seasons.

That consistency is reflected in the financial results. The club has made profits in all but one of the past 10 years. Thanks to healthy gate receipts and television deals, operating profits last year, before net spending on new players, reached pounds 6.1m on turnover of pounds 18.8m.

Separately, the rival West Bromwich Albion club in the West Midlands, quoted on AIM, yesterday announced a sharp upturn in half-year profits from pounds 129,000 to pounds 301,000. The shares, however, at pounds 200 each are well down from their recent peak of pounds 280.

Interim results were also released by Caspian Group, owner of Leeds United, that reflected the impact of net spending of pounds 7.9m on transfer fees. Despite raising pounds 5.3m from the sale of children's TV rights in Paddington Bear, Juniper Jungle and the Shoe People, the group made an after-tax loss of pounds 2.63m. Attendances seem to be holding up well and television revenues showed a marked increase following a better deal between the League and BSkyB.

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