Leeds' shares rise on bid expectations

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The Independent Online

Leeds United's share price rose sharply yesterday morning on the expectation of a bid for the club by Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa which subsequently failed to materialise by the close of business last night.

It had been anticipated that the Leeds-supporting Bahraini millionaire might make his first concrete offer for the Premiership's basement club after weeks of being linked to a buyout but no deal was forthcoming. Leeds would have been obliged by law to inform the Stock Exchange had any offer been made. Instead, the club informed the Stock Exchange yesterday morning that it had received no bid approach, a position that did not change throughout the day.

Sources close to Leeds have no doubt that the sheikh is a genuine, well-meaning fan who wants to help the club, but he has yet to provide any money. His failure to inject expected interim funding last week led to the club's announcement that administration was a possibility in the near future.

Talks between Leeds and their major creditors are ongoing. It is thought the club might announce within the next 48 hours that its creditors will give it two more months to restructure its finances.

Such breathing space would allow Trevor Birch, the Leeds chief executive, a last chance to save the club from administration by finding new investors and formulating a long-term survival strategy. Leeds hope to announce that talks initially brokered by the club chairman, John McKenzie, and followed up by Birch, have finally proven beneficial.

It is believed that the American bondholders, who are owed £60m, have agreed to free up funds which will allow Leeds to trade in the short term.

The sheikh was continuing yesterday to work with unnamed Middle Eastern partners on a plan - details of which are unspecified - to assist the financially troubled club. "We are working hard with some interested parties in order to find a positive outcome to the club's financial crisis - near the upcoming weekend or so, we hope," he was quoted as saying in the Bahrain newspaper Al-Ayam.

Negotiations with a number of investors are at an advanced stage, underlined by the fact that the sheikh has enlisted the services of the respected stockbrokers Brewin Dolphin and the law firm Linklaters.

Leeds shares closed at 4.63p yesterday, valuing the club at £16.1m.

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