Manchester United, the world’s best-supported soccer club, has ditched its plans for an Asian stock market flotation and is preparing to list in the US, according to sources with knowledge of the deal.
After first eyeing a Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO), the former English soccer champions had planned a US$1 billion listing in Singapore in the second half of last year before putting plans on hold because of market turmoil.
United, which has been English league champions a record 19 times and features players such as England’s Wayne Rooney, declined to comment.
The US listing would come either on the New York Stock Exchange or its electronic rival NASDAQ, which is under scrutiny after its systems bungled the debut of social media giant Facebook Inc last month, causing customer losses estimated of at least US$100 million.
A person familiar with the New York Stock Exchange, owned by NYSE Euronext, said an exchange decision is expected soon. NASDAQ, owned by NASDAQ OMX Group Inc, was not immediately available to comment.
The club’s US proprietors, the Glazer family, are well known in the US as owners of football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as First Allied Corp, which owns and leases shopping centers.
However, they have faced opposition from United fans after taking over the club in 2005 in a leveraged buyout that left it saddled with hefty debt repayments.
Adding to fans’ unease, United lost their Premier League title to local rivals Manchester City last month, a club bankrolled by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, one of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.
The news of changing listing place will be another blow to equity capital markets in Asia, where deal volumes have fallen sharply this year, excluding Malaysia.
Manchester United’s decision is particularly bad news for Singapore, where motor racing company Formula One delayed its planned US$3 billion IPO this month, sources said.
Bankers in Asia were skeptical about Manchester United’s IPO prospects in the US given volatile markets.
“It is a brave move for Man U to try to list in the US. Good luck to them,” an investment banker said in Asia.
A US listing is unlikely to achieve the original goal of putting shares in the hands of a wide base of United fans. A separate source said the original aim of the Singapore listing was to create “a pan-regional platform for retail investors.”