The owners of Manchester United Football Club are considering returning the company to stockmarket in a £1.7 billion flotation that would see it listed in Asia rather than London, it was reported today.
The Glazer family, which owns the club, has held talks with several investment banks about listing the Premier League Champions on the Hong Kong stock exchange, The Sunday Times said.
Bankers are believed to have told the Florida-based tycoons that the listing could value the club at £1.7 billion - more than double the £790 million the Glazers paid for it in 2005.
The popularity of Manchester United in Asia means the club could attract a higher price in Hong Kong than in London.
The family has been encouraged by a raft of recent floats on the Hong Kong stock exchange by consumer goods companies such as Samsonite.
But sources close to the discussions told the newspaper that the plans were at an early stage and could amount to nothing.
Sir Alex Ferguson's team recently won its 19th league title, making it the most successful club in the history of English football.
The club is one of the best supported in the world and is thought to be the third wealthiest after Spain's Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Last year, the club's revenues of £286 million and operating profits of £91 million were the highest in the Premier League.
But the club made losses of £79 million as a result of interest payments the Glazers have piled on to the club, which have made them unpopular with many fans.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust has been encouraging fans to wear green and gold scarves, the colours of the club until 1902, to show their opposition to the Glazers.
News that its owners are considering a float may encourage fresh interest from the Red Knights, a consortium of wealthy United fans interested in buying the club.
They began assembling a bid last year but found their valuation of the club fell well short of the £1.5 billion the Glazers believed it to be worth.
The Glazers said at the time that they would "not entertain any offers" and they remained fully committed to their long-term ownership of Manchester United.
The newspaper understands that representatives of the Knights have toured the Middle East in recent weeks trying to attract financial backing that would allow them to improve their offer.
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