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Oct, 15, 2008

Dubai's Zabeel on track to buy Charlton Athletic

DUBAI, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Dubai's Zabeel Investments, which last year tried to buy Liverpool, hopes to complete a deal to acquire Charlton Athletic soon, an executive said on Wednesday.

"Charlton has a great heritage and passionate fans and great potential... hopefully, if things go well, we will move with Charlton as soon as we can," Jbran Rahal, managing director of Zabeel Capital, a unit of the investment firm, told Reuters.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a Dubai conference.

The English Championship (second division) team said last week it had received an indicative cash offer from Zabeel which its board could recommend to shareholders once certain conditions, including due diligence, were met.

"We are going through the due diligence process," Rahal said, declining to give a value for the deal.

Zabeel was part of a Dubai consortium trying to buy Liverpool and was linked in September with a bid for fellow Premier League club Newcastle United, whose owner Mike Ashley is looking for a buyer under pressure from discontented fans.

Mohammed Ali al-Hashimi, the company's executive chairman, had told Reuters in September his firm was no longer looking at soccer teams as valuations had risen.

However, speculation has grown that Gulf Arab investors would look to emulate an Abu Dhabi-based group that took over Manchester City on Sept. 1 by buying into British soccer teams.

One group - Dubai Investment Group (DIG), owned by the emirate's ruler - said last month it was not involved in negotiations to buy Newcastle and had no plans to acquire it.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley put the club up for sale in September but has since struggled to find a suitable buyer given worsening conditions on the global financial markets.

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