Manchester United Said to Weigh IPO in U.S., Not Singapore

Manchester United Said to Weigh IPO in U.S., Not Singapore
A statue depicting former Manchester United soccer club players Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best stands outside the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, U.K. Photographer: Paul Thomas/Bloomberg

Manchester United Ltd., the record 19-time English soccer champion, is exploring moving its initial public offering to the U.S. from Asia as it seeks to secure the best valuation, said people with knowledge of the plans.

United, which previously planned to raise about $1 billion in Singapore, hasn’t made a final decision, said the people, who declined to be identified because the deliberations are private. Banks pitched the idea of a U.S. listing to the Glazer family, the club’s U.S. owners, one of the people said.

“This could have negative implications for Singapore’s aim to build a cluster of international sports names listed here,” said Ng Soo Nam, Singapore-based chief investment officer at Nikko Asset Management Asia Ltd., which oversees about $165 billion. “Such listings would have helped broaden the breadth of the Singapore market.”

Credit Suisse Group AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. will remain lead managers for the IPO, while Morgan Stanley, hired for the share sale in Singapore, would no longer advise if United opts for the U.S., said the people. While a U.S. listing would give United access to investors worldwide, the club could fetch a higher valuation by choosing an exchange closer to its fan base, said Matt McCormick of Bahl & Gaynor Inc.

“Even though Manchester United is a global brand, of all the marketplaces, the U.S. is probably the one where it’s the least well-known,” said McCormick, who helps oversee $6.2 billion at the firm in Cincinnati. “If they’re hot in Europe or in Asia, then it would give me pause that they aren’t going to their strengths.”

Singapore Approval

A Manchester-based spokeswoman for United declined to comment. Credit Suisse spokesman Steven Vames declined to comment, as did JPMorgan spokeswoman Elizabeth Seymour. Phone calls to Morgan Stanley weren’t immediately returned.

United received the Singapore stock exchange’s approval in September to raise $1 billion in an IPO, but the process was stalled as volatile stock markets roiled equity sales, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time.

Singapore’s benchmark stock index, the Straits Times Index, has fallen about 13 percent since August, when United was contemplating an IPO in the city state. The index has declined 8 percent from its high in March this year. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has gained 5 percent this year.

The club has 659 million fans, making it the world’s most popular, United said last month, citing a study by market research company Kantar. Its supporters have doubled in five years, helped by 108 million fans in China, where the team plans to play two exhibition matches this summer.

Formula One

The Glazer family bought the team in 2005 for 790 million pounds ($1.2 billion). The U.S. plans were reported earlier by IFR.

Formula One Chief Executive Officer Bernie Ecclestone said May 31 the auto racing series’ planned initial public offering may not take place until later this year because of time pressures and a volatile equity market. Ecclestone said he’s busy handling business, such as talks with the promoters for a proposed 2013 race in New Jersey, and can’t devote as much time as is necessary to the IPO.

Formula One’s shareholders led by CVC Capital Partners Ltd. plan to raise as much as $3 billion by selling stakes in the business in Singapore and have contacted so-called cornerstone investors.

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