Birmingham International Slumps as Hong Kong Trading Resumes

Birmingham International Holdings Ltd., which controls English soccer team Birmingham City, plunged on its first day of trading for 2 1/2 years as owner Carson Yeung fights money-laundering charges.

The shares tumbled 34 percent, the biggest drop since May 16, 2006, to close at HK$0.101 in Hong Kong. The city’s benchmark Hang Seng Index rose 1 percent.

Trading in Birmingham International resumed after Yeung resigned as chairman this week. The former hairdresser, who has pleaded not guilty to five charges of laundering HK$721.3 million ($93 million), is awaiting the results of the trial.The verdict is scheduled to be delivered on Feb. 28.

Birmingham International on Feb. 4 appointed Executive Director Cheung Shing as chairman and Yeung’s brother-in-law, Executive Director Ma Shui-cheong as vice chairman. Yeung may be reappointed as an executive director if he’s cleared of all charges and “if it is in the overall interests of the company and the shareholders,” Birmingham International said.

Hong Kong prosecutors said Yeung laundered deposits from parties including a Macau casino operator and securities firms over a seven-year period to 2007, and used part of the money to pay for a stake in the English soccer club.

Yeung’s lawyers have said prosecutors failed to prove that his money didn’t come from investments and gambling winnings.

Yeung was chairman of Grandtop International Holdings Ltd., which in 2007 bought a 29.9 percent stake in the West Midlands, U.K.-based soccer club for 15 million pounds ($24.5 million). Yeung bought the rest of the club in 2009, paying 81.5 million pounds to David and Ralph Gold and David Sullivan, and Grandtop changed its name to Birmingham International Holdings Ltd.

The company said on Feb. 5 that talks for the possible sale of as much as a 24 percent stake in Birmingham City soccer team are continuing. The football club was relegated from the English Premier League to the Championship for the 2010-2011 season, where it has stayed.

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