Manchester United is drawing up plans to shift its proposed initial public offering from Singapore to the U.S., according to people close to the situation, in a potential blow to Asian capital markets that have seen a number of listings pulled in recent weeks.
The football club, one of the world’s most recognised sporting brands, was taken private by the U.S.-based Glazer family after a debt-funded $790-million (U.S.) purchase in 2005. It had been planning to raise up to $1-billion through a partial listing in Singapore since at least last August.
Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan, expected to be the underwriters of the deal in Singapore, all declined to comment.
However, two bankers close to the deal said underwriters had warned the Glazers it would not be wise to proceed with a listing in Asia, given market volatility. Both bankers cautioned that the club had not come to a final decision on where to list.
Manchester United’s possible about-turn would be another blow for the Asian IPO market, after Graff Diamonds pulled its $1-billion offering in Hong Kong while Formula One is likely to delay its planned listing in Singapore.
The club, which declined to comment, originally planned to list in Hong Kong. However, this was moved to Singapore amid suggestions that the Hong Kong exchange’s IPO rules would have proved too onerous for United.
The publicity-shy Glazer family intended to use part of the proceeds from the planned Singapore flotation to pay down the club’s £423.3-million gross debt and lower interest fees.
The club, which saw pre-tax profits nearly halve to £15.6-million for the nine months ended March 31, compared with the same period in 2011, has paid £42.7-million in interest fees so far this financial year, according to company accounts.
A U.S. listing would give the Florida-based Glazers greater operational involvement in an IPO. But a shift from Singapore would deprive the owners of the opportunity fully to exploit the brand in the rapidly growing Asian football market.
Andy Green, an independent football analyst and Manchester United blogger, said a move to the U.S. “looks like desperation” on the Glazers’ part.
“First it was Hong Kong, then Singapore and now New York,” he said. “The Glazers assumed they would get a high price in Asia and they haven’t - I’m not sure they will in the U.S. either given there’s no tradition of listed sports clubs.”