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Britain’s world-renowned soccer club Manchester United slashed the price of its US share launch, cutting the amount it was raising in yesterday’s initial public offering (IPO) to US$233 million from a hoped-for US$300 million or more.

The fabled team, mired in debt since 2005 after a heavily leveraged takeover by the Glazer family of Miami-based investors, lowered its price for the 16.7 million shares on offer to US$14 late on Thursday from the originally planned US$16 to US$20 range.

Home to stars like Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand, United is the most successful club in English soccer history, with a massive global fan base, especially in Asia.

The company gave no reason for cutting the price, but the IPO has come amid some doubts about the team’s ability to boost profits as long as it carries a hefty debt burden — Morningstar analysts estimated a fair price for the shares at just US$10.

Critics had assailed the Glazers’ plan to allocate just half the IPO receipts to reducing the team’s current £423 million (US$660 million) debt burden.

The other half will go to the Glazers themselves, who are contributing 8.33 million shares to the initial offering.

In addition, despite putting 10 percent of the shares of Manchester United on sale, the Glazers will retain about 97 percent voting control of the listed company via their lock on “B” shares, which have 10 times the voting power of the “A” shares being sold to the public.

That arrangement reportedly caused regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore to balk at a listing in their markets, where the club had hoped to tap the interest of tens of millions of Asian Man U fans.

The price still left the legendary soccer franchise valued at US$2.3 billion, well above any of its rivals, including Real Madrid, which sports much larger profits.

The shares were due to hit the market sometime during yesterday’s session, trading under the MANU symbol.

The owners hope the value in the club’s global popularity will translate into strong investor support.

“For 134 years now we’ve been one of the most successful and iconic sports teams in the world,” executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said in an IPO presentation.

“We generate inherently compelling content; we’ve developed into the global brand in sports. And as a result of that we have a whole line of partners knocking on our door and trying to partner up with us,” he said.

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