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Aug 10, 2012

United lower share flotation value

Manchester United will begin trading shares in New York on Friday in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) at a lower figure than had originally been planned.

United said they would sell shares at $14 each, having previously announced that the shares would be worth between $16 and $20. They are selling shares representing 10% of the club and will raise $233 million - $100 million less than envisaged.

But Manchester United fans branded United owners the Glazer family "greedy" and said shares in the club are only worth half as much as the owners hope to receive in the IPO.

The funds will be partly used to pay off some of the debt, estimated at around £423 million, owed by the club, which was bought by the American family in 2005.

The lower flotation price is the latest in a series of setbacks to hit the launch of United shares after previous proposals to float them on exchanges in Hong Kong and Singapore failed due to fears over a lack of buyers, but the shares will now begin trading under the stock market ticker Manu.

Richard Hunter, the head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said the lowered flotation price was "disappointing but not unexpected", adding: "Football clubs are notoriously difficult investments, ultimately tied to the fortunes of the club on the pitch.

"However, interest in the sport is taking off in the US, and last night's Olympics victory for the women's football team is likely to fuel interest further."

But other analysts said they were surprised the price was as high as $14 and warned that United could struggle to find investors in what is a risky area.

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) has called for the Florida-based Glazers to sell the club at a lesser price.

Duncan Drasdo, the trust's chief executive, said: "It would seem all the analysis of the true valuation was correct - the Glazers and their advisors were being far too ambitious, or perhaps greedy - and the true value of the shares should be around $10 rather than the $20 the Glazers were seeking.

"As it stands, the club is valued at around one-third less than their expectations, but many commentators expect the price to slide over the next two weeks once it opens for trading."

A successful IPO would reportedly result in investors owning 42% of the shares available but only carrying voting rights of 1.3%.

It emerged that the Glazers would make about £90 million from the deal, having originally said that all proceeds raised would go towards paying down United's debt.

Drasdo said: "The Glazers [should] stop looking after themselves and for the first and last time do what is best for Manchester United Football Club and put it up for sale at a reasonable price so that fans can once again share in real ownership of their club."

News that the Glazers would make money from the IPO led MUST to call for a boycott of products made by United's sponsors. A statement said: "The Manchester United Supporters' Trust has called for a worldwide boycott of Manchester United sponsors' products, with support across the UK, Europe, Asia and the US.

"The boycott strategy is intended to send a loud and clear message to the Glazer family and club sponsors that, without the support and purchasing power of the fans, the global strength of the Manchester United brand doesn't actually exist."

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