Glazer return brings new uncertainty for United

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The Independent Online

Manchester United were last night plunged into their third "offer period" in the space of 12 months by the Stock Exchange after the Old Trafford board confirmed that the American multi-millionaire Malcolm Glazer had renewed his interest in buying the club.

Manchester United were last night plunged into their third "offer period" in the space of 12 months by the Stock Exchange after the Old Trafford board confirmed that the American multi-millionaire Malcolm Glazer had renewed his interest in buying the club.

The offer period status has come to represent a real administrative headache for chief executive David Gill and finance director Nick Humby and can be triggered by any suggestion from Glazer, the club's second largest shareholder, that he is planning a bid for the entire club.

The offer period is effectively a takeover alert which places certain restrictions on the club over trading in their shares. However, it also gives United the power to ask the Takeover Panel, part of the Stock Exchange, to force Glazer to make a formal bid within up to 90 days. Failure to do that can preclude him from launching another takeover within a period of time up to six months, set at the panel's discretion.

United were first placed in an offer period in February when Glazer released an open-ended statement that said he was still considering whether to make a bid for the club. As he quickly increased his stake through October the club was subject to another offer period.

It means that, over Christmas, United will have to contact all of their estimated 37,000 shareholders to let them know that Glazer, who owns 28.14 per cent of the club, has come to them with plans for a new takeover. It is unclear what the details of the new deal are, but Glazer has been told by the club that they are not willing to enter into negotiations until he can present a full plan to them.

Despite United's confirmation that Glazer is revising his bid proposal, the American's ambitions remain undermined by doubts that he can secure the finance or co-operation of key shareholders he needs, let alone the backing of the board.

Since being dumped by his previous bankers, JP Morgan, for his aggressive stance, Glazer has sought replacement backers without success. City sources say that the latest firm linked to him, Commerzbank, have also decided not to fund him further.

The German bank has already leant him some £100m to fund his stockpiling and is reluctant to get more deeply involved. Even a less leveraged bid will probably rely on more borrowing, and his options are diminishing.

Should he find the money - perhaps by liquidating assets in America - there are no guarantees that Glazer will gain the crucial co-operation of John Magnier and JP McManus. Their stake is the keystone of any Glazer buyout. Without it, Glazer cannot control United.

The Irish tycoons, who own 28.89 per cent of United through their Cubic Expression company, halted talks with Glazer in October because they were unhappy with his offer for their shares. There has been no contact since, with Cubic equally happy to either keep their stake indefinitely or wait for a substantial offer above the 300p per share offered last time.

Glazer also knows that Gill is instinctively against a takeover.

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