Sunderland scores on trading debut

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The Independent Online
Investors in Sunderland football club received an early Christmas present on Tuesday when shares in the Premier League club made a stunning stock market debut.

The shares, offered to investors at 585p, closed at 732.5p, valuing the club at almost pounds 60m. The substantial premium means fans who subscribed for the minimum application of 100 shares are already sitting on a paper profit of pounds 147.50.

The success of the flotation was virtually guaranteed last week when Sunderland revealed that the public tranche was 2.7 times oversubscribed.

Strong demand for Sunderland's shares also underlines the stock market's hungry appetite for all things football as a growing band of clubs line up for a stock market listing to improve their financial clout both on and off the field.

It also provides further proof that success on the pitch is not a prerequisite for a good performance on the stock market. Shares in Tottenham Hotspur, for example, have been among the 20 biggest risers on the London stock market this year, yet the team has struggled to put three passes together all season.

Sunderland have spent most of the season flirting with relegation and last Saturday were trounced 5-0 at Manchester United - the biggest defeat in Peter Reid's managerial career at Roker Park.

Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City, Southampton and Sheffield United are set to go public in the new year. Investors are attracted by the prospect of substantially enhanced television income from the screening of live matches on a pay-per-view basis.

Meanwhile, it emerged over the Christmas holiday that Southampton has rebuffed an offer from a consortium led by Sir David Frost to take a stake in the club, insisting that it would proceed with its plan to reverse into Secure Retirement, a listed healthcare and property company. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the company said it was bound by its agreement with Secure Retirement, adding that it appreciated Sir David's offer of "assistance".

Sunderland, promoted from Division One as champions last season, are expecting television and media income to increase more than tenfold to pounds 3.5m this season, helped by a deal signed last summer between the Premier League and BSkyB.

Analysts believe there is enough money sloshing around to satisfy all the top clubs.

"We are not at saturation point," said Nick Knight, of Japanese investment bank Nomura. "Sunderland and Southampton are relatively small clubs compared with Newcastle and Man Utd but they are still going to have access to some chunky television revenue."

Sunderland tapped the equity market in part to meet the costs of building its new stadium, scheduled to be completed next year. It will seat 42,000, and is being built at a cost of pounds 17.25m.

But an independent valuation said the new ground was already worth pounds 26.5m. The valuation, which assumed the stadium had been completed, included the 12 acres of freehold land on which it is situated and the eight acres of leasehold interest in a nearby parking site.