Glazers gain £75m in Manchester United stock market float

 

The American owners of Manchester United pocketed around £75 million today as shares in the football club were publicly traded for the first time in seven years.

Some 16.6 million shares, equal to 10 per cent of the club, were floated on the New York Stock Exchange to great fanfare as members of the Glazer family rang the opening bell.

The 134-year-old club offered shares for 14 US dollars (£9) a piece - giving United a market value of £1.5 billion - but there was little price movement in early trade.

The offering was substantially lower than the 16 to 20 US dollars originally proposed by its advisers - which would have valued the club at £2.1 billion at the top end.

The flotation will raise around £150 million with roughly half the proceeds going to the Glazers, who bought the club in 2005 for £800 million, while the remaining proceeds will be used to pay down some of the Red Devils' £423 million debt pile.

As trading started, United's co-chairmen Avram and Joel Glazer and chief executive David Gill applauded from the stock exchange's balcony, which was adorned with the club's emblem, while New York traders wore the club's trademark red home kit.

The lower flotation price comes after the Glazer family, which also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American football team, previously failed to garner sufficient support to sell shares on exchanges in Hong Kong and Singapore.

However, United, which claims to have a global fan base of about 660 million and has won a record 19 league titles, is still one of the world's most valuable sports teams.

Although the listing has been planned for some time, the Glazer family originally claimed all the proceeds would go towards United's debt, angering fans.

A successful initial public offering would reportedly result in investors owning 42% of the shares available but only carrying voting rights of 1.3%.

Trading under the stock-market ticker Manu, shares rose but then pulled back to stand still at the 14 US dollar mark.

Shavaz Dhalla, financial trader at Spreadex, said: "After opening positively, possibly caused by smaller retail investors looking to pick up a token share, the club's share price slowly began to retrace and drop early gains.

"Clearly, investors who are actually looking for a return as well as a shareholder voting right are steering clear."

Earlier this month, a leading Manchester United fans' group called for a boycott of the club's expanding portfolio of sponsors in protest at the planned flotation.

A statement from the Manchester United Supporters Trust (Must) read: "The Manchester United Supporters Trust has today called for a worldwide boycott of Manchester United sponsors' products, with support across the UK, Europe, Asia and the US.

"The boycott strategy is intended to send a loud and clear message to the Glazer family and club sponsors that, without the support and purchasing power of the fans, the global strength of the Manchester United brand doesn't actually exist."

PA

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