Sat, Feb 26, 2011 - Page 20 News List

US owners insist Manchester United are not up for sale

AP, LONDON

Manchester United’s US owners denied suggestions of an imminent sale by insisting yesterday that they haven’t held takeover talks and are committed to the English giants for the “long term.”

The statement from the Glazers, which accompanied United’s quarterly update on its financial results, comes amid continuing media reports that the family has been in negotiations with the Qatari royal family.

“The board notes recent press speculation regarding a possible bid for Manchester United,” the statement said. “The owners remain fully committed to their long-term ownership of the club.”

“No discussions have taken place, Manchester United is not for sale and the owners will not entertain any offers,” it said.

Qatar Holdings has also denied that it has bid for United, which Forbes magazine has estimated to be worth US$1.8 billion — making them the most valuable soccer team in the world.

Yesterday’s statement is the second time in the past year that the Glazers have used their quarterly financial update to refute persistent claims they are trying to sell the club they bought in a leveraged buyout in 2005.

While an anti-Glazer protest campaign adopted by fans last season has lost its initial impetus, supporters remain furious at the high level of debt they claim is hampering the club’s ability to compete in the transfer market.

While United are top of the Premier League and in the last 16 of the Champions League, the team’s performances have been inconsistent and several key players who are nearing the end of their careers have yet to be replaced.

The Red Devils gave Wayne Rooney a more lucrative contract in October when he threatened to leave, but they didn’t make any significant additions to the squad in the January transfer window as Chelsea spent around £70 million (US$112 million) on Fernando Torres and David Luiz.

It is 13 months since the Glazers replaced long-term financing and reduced debts to hedge funds through a seven-year bond issue that raised £504 million.

United revealed yesterday that £24 million of those bonds have been bought back as the club’s cash reserves dropped to £134.5 million on Dec. 31 from £151.7 million in September.

The club can put the bonds back on the market.

The quarterly financial results to Dec. 31 for United’s parent company, Red Football, also showed that the club’s gross debt dropped to £489.4 million from £509.4 million on Sept. 30.

However, the Glazers have still not revealed how they repaid high-interest loans in November reportedly worth £249 million or whether any new debt was incurred.

The club’s growth area continues to be the London-based commercial operation. New global sponsorship deals ensured that in the last six months of last year the club generated £50.4 million from commercial revenue — an increase of 30 percent compared with the same period in 2009.

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