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Aug 9, 2010

Liverpool still waiting on takeover information

Liverpool are hoping that in the next week they can discover the full facts about the five different investment groups battling for control of the financially troubled club.

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Soccernet has discovered that none of the groups interested in purchasing the club have so far provided proof of funds, and none have provided sufficient detail to warrant the club's board, led by Martin Broughton, to recommend a preferred bidder.

So far, the Chinese-backed consortium headed by Kenny Huang has yet to come clean about the identity of its investors, and there is no conclusive detail of whether the Chinese government, in the form of a sovereign wealth fund, is involved or not.

Hedge fund investors The Rhone Group are back in contention again, while individuals from India and the Middle East do have personal fortunes that could sustain a bid. However, they might also involve backers and investors who have yet to be identified.

To add to the increasing anxiety surrounding the takeover, Syrian businessman Yahya Kirdi, who represents a group of investors from the Middle East and Canada, is the preferred takeover 'offer' of owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks - and no wonder as Soccernet has been informed that his offer is £600 million, twice the value of the four alternative offers.

The Royal Bank of Scotland debt is £237 million, the debt to the owners is estimated at £140 million and if an offer is accepted at around £350 million, then the American owners would just about break even. On top of that, new owners would have to foot the bill for a new stadium of more than £400 million, plus investment in new players.

That has led other investors, apart from Kirdi, to value the club at £350 million. Yet Kirdi is willing to pay in excess of that figure. He is a resident of Canada and a former Syria international who oversees investments in Europe and North America on behalf of his investor group.

Kirdi has even suggested a price has been agreed and a formal purchase agreement "is in the final stage of negotiation". A statement from Kirdi said: "The group is in advanced negotiations with Thomas Hicks and George Gillett, co-owners of Liverpool Football Club, to purchase 100% of the club.

"Agreement has been reached on all major terms including the purchase price, repayment of the existing bank debt from RBS and Wells Fargo and financing of a new stadium in Liverpool's Stanley Park. A formal purchase agreement between the parties is in the final stage of negotiation."

Others, though, feel he might be a stalking horse to push up the price. Similar claims were made by Kirdi's representatives in April and no deal was done.

"Liverpool is a massive football club with passionate and proud fans in Merseyside and in every part of the world," Kirdi said. "With additional money to improve the squad and financing in place to build the new stadium, LFC will be on a solid foundation to compete in the Premiership and in Europe for years to come."

Kuwaiti Kharafi Group, the US private-equity firm Rhone Group and the Indian conglomerate Sahara are the other groups involved.

A source said: "To be perfectly honest, no one really can say what is going to happen next. However, hopefully something has got to give and in the next few days the situation will become much clearer."

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