Spanish soccer clubs plan floats

Real Betis, the Spanish football club which has just pulled off the world record pounds 22m transfer of Brazilian football ace Denilson, is believed to be hatching plans for a flotation on the London stock market. Spanish rival Real Club Deportivo Espanyol also announced yesterday that it was seeking a stock market listing through a public share offer to institutional and retail investors.

A representative of Real Betis recently came to London to sound out fund managers about a flotation. Tony Fraher, manager of Singer & Friedlander's football fund, said: "Real Betis is considering a London flotation. A Spanish lawyer representing Real Betis came to see me in London several months ago concerning the flotation. He phoned again a few weeks ago about coming to see me again."

Mr Fraher added: "They are certainly more likely to seek a listing now that they have spent a lot of money on Denilson."

Real Betis is Seville's main team and is one of the most successful clubs in Spain behind Real Madrid and Barcelona. Analysts believe it could fetch a value of more than pounds 100m.

The acquisition of Denilson, the Brazilian winger, from Sao Paulo makes him the world's most expensive player, ahead of his international team- mate Ronaldo, who was bought recently by Inter Milan of Italy for pounds 16.5m from Barcelona. Denilson will be paid a huge salary of pounds 18m over his 11- year contract.

Deportivo is also one of Spain's leading clubs. Ignacio Mur, Deportivo's general secretary to the board, said: "We're preparing to come to the market because we believe such a project would be positive." He said it would give the club a solid financial base.

Deportivo is now seeking a financial adviser to study the viability of such a share sale and value the business. The club is believed to be in negotiations with NatWest Markets, although a deal has not yet been finalised.

Mr Mur said the club's owners viewed a flotation positively, although a final decision had not been made. The Lara Bosch family currently owns most of the club and a public offer would not involve the sale of a majority of club's shares.

Deportivo is expected to post earnings of 8.4bn pesetas (pounds 36m) in the1997- 1998 season, compared to losses of 16m pesetas last year, with debts falling to 1bn pesetas from 11bn pesetas.

There is likely to be a flood of football flotations in London and Europe over the next few years as clubs seek new funds to pay for star players on the promise of greater television revenues in the future.

Many leading clubs in Spain, Italy, Holland and Portugal are seriously considering coming to the market.

Atletico Madrid, the Spanish club which paid Middlesborough pounds 12m for Juninho, announced last week that it was considering a flotation. Financial director Alvaro Gomez said it would allow the club to finance new players and reduce debts.

Vicenza is set to become the first Italian football club to float on the Milan stock exchange. Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, Portuguese clubs Benfica, Oporto and Sporting Lisbon, and Italian giants AC Milan, Inter Milan and Bologna are all eyeing up flotations.

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