Ashley asks Dubai investors for £481m for Newcastle sale

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The Independent Football

The Newcastle United owner, Mike Ashley has reportedly asked Dubai investors for $860m (£481m) to buy the club according to an Arab website. The figure, reported on Arabian Business.com, is more than double what Ashley has invested in the club and is contained in documents handed to representatives of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum earlier this week.

The documents are currently being studied ahead of a potential takeover offer – but any interested parties are unlikely to meet Ashley's staggering asking price.

"That price is just too much for this club, but we will see what happens and what offer can be made," a source close to the talks told the website. Both Dubai-based Zabeel Investments and Dubai Investment Group, part of Dubai Holding, are being considered to front any deal. Dubai Investment Group is part of Dubai Holding that has investments in the Indian sub-continent and South East Asia. Both companies are owned by Sheikh Mohammed.

However, Zabeel Investments chairman Mohammed Ali Al Hashimi stressed that he had not been directly approached over any takeover deal. "We have not had any contact," he said. "I am not interested in any [Premier League club] right now." Last year Al Hashimi revealed that Zabeel Investments had been part of the Dubai-led consortium that failed to buy Liverpool Football Club in February 2006.

The beleaguered Ashley expressed his desire to offload the Tyneside club in a statement issued on Monday. Since then it was reported that he was sounding out potential buyers in Dubai where he was seeking to recoup the £244m he paid to purchase the club and clear debt. But according to the sale documents, Ashley wants to recoup his investment, plus take a huge profit. Reports yesterday also claimed that Ashley has suffered huge personal losses as the value of HBOS shares, of which he has a sizeable holding, tumbled by 22 per cent at close of trading.

Ashley bought the club in May last year, but Newcastle fans have been calling for him to sell the club following the resignation of manager Kevin Keegan last week.

In more bad news for Newcastle, striker Alan Smith is expected to be out for up to three months after a stress fracture of his ankle.

The player, who is yet to score for Newcastle, yesterday underwent a scan to assess the full extent of the injury. If he requires surgery, the former Manchester United player faces a three month spell on the sidelines.

* Players' union leader Gordon Taylor has admitted he "wouldn't be surprised" if the Football Association hit Newcastle's Danny Guthrie with significant extra punishment for the challenge which broke the leg of Hull's Craig Fagan. And the Professional Footballers' Association's chief executive has warned Guthrie he can expect little protection from his union if that is the case – even though Taylor is convinced the foul was "totally out of character" for the player who has since publicly apologised.

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