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By ESPN Staff

Man City in talks with potential investors

The battle to take control of Manchester City could be completed by the end of the season, it is understood.

And that would mean a welcome boost for manager Stuart Pearce in his attempt to strengthen his squad in the summer.

In a statement to the Stock Exchange, the club confirmed that 'it remained in preliminary discussions with external parties'.

It is believed four groups of investors are competing against each other, including one from the USA.

City revealed before Christmas they were seeking fresh investment in the club but today's statement suggests some progress has been made since then.

It read: 'The board of Manchester City notes the recent press speculation regarding the possibility of an offer being made for the company.

'Further to the company's announcement on December 7 2006, the board of Manchester City confirms that it remains in preliminary discussions with third parties that may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company.

'A further announcement will be made in due course as appropriate.'

While the people behind the proposed Manchester City Supporters Trust say it is too early to assess what may or may not happen, they reiterate that everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction.

'We strongly believe that success on and off the pitch requires our club, the shareholders, the community and most importantly the supporters to pull together as one,' they state.

'The key to future success lies in the hands of the supporters and shareholders and their active and positive participation.

'Action does speak louder than words, the time for apathy and disillusionment is over, it is time to contribute and meet the challenges that lie ahead.

'We will actively support any investor who shares those views and wants to play their part in a successful all-inclusive long-term partnership. We are ready to play our part.'

The key to any deal would be the agreement of chairman John Wardle and his business partner David Makin, who between them own 29.75% of the shares but also have £21million in outstanding loans to the club.

The next largest shareholders after Wardle and Makin are Mark Boler (18.75%), BSkyB (9.9%) and Francis Lee (7%+).

Wardle has made it perfectly clear the club must remain in good hands.

If he and Makin did step down, then it is understood the newcomers would invest heavily in City but could end up financing a full £70million takeover.