Man United floats in New York, analysts fear 'son of Facebook'

Aug 10, 2012

IPO will make United world's most valuable club as shares go on sale at $14 each

MANCHESTER UNITED'S long-awaited float finally takes place in New York today and, even though shares have been priced at $14 - well below the range initially expected - the IPO will make United the world's most valuable football club.

The Glazer family, which bought United in 2005, has been trying to arrange a flotation for some time, but things have not gone smoothly. Plans for a $1bn float in Asia were abandoned and the club eventually decided to list on the New York Stock Exchange. There have been doubts about the club's valuation and the interest of American investors. Market jitters also delayed the IPO and the sale is now expected to raise less than $250m.

"The club had been set to sell their shares for between $16-$20 a share but cut them to $14 late on Thursday following negative comments from Wall Street analysts and Facebook's disappointing stock market debut in May," reported The Guardian. The Financial Times noted that the order book was closed at lunchtime on Thursday rather than at the close of business.

Another problem is the dual-class voting structure, with shares owned by the Glazers carrying far more weight than those available to the public. "A successful IPO would reportedly result in investors owning 42 per cent of the shares available but only carrying voting rights of 1.3 per cent," explained The Times.

Supporters are also angry. They wanted the money used to pay off the club's debts of around £420m, but only half the proceeds  will go to Old Trafford. The Glazers will apparently pocket the rest.

Some fear the float could be another high profile Wall Street flop. One analyst described it as "son of Facebook".

"But the fact that the deal was completed at all - after much scepticism in the markets - was a clear win for the Glazer family," said the Wall Street Journal.

The sale will be the largest sports listing ever, surpassing World Wrestling Federation's $190m IPO in 1999. It also makes United the most valuable football team in the world with a value of $2.3bn. Their closest rivals are Real Madrid, worth $1.88bn.

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