Manchester United IPO on hold: source

LONDON Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:22pm EDT

Manchester United's Nani (R) celebrates scoring against Chelsea during their English Premier League soccer match in Manchester, northern England September 18, 2011. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Manchester United's Nani (R) celebrates scoring against Chelsea during their English Premier League soccer match in Manchester, northern England September 18, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

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LONDON (Reuters) - English Premier League soccer champions Manchester United have put on hold a $1 billion flotation in Singapore due to market volatility, while retaining a goal of listing before the end of the year, a source close to the IPO told Reuters.

United, currently top of the Premier League, had targeted a mid-October float.

"They are not ready to go because of the way the markets are looking. Whilst they've got the approval for listing, they certainly don't have the intention to go immediately and they're biding their time," the source said, confirming earlier media reports from Asia.

The source said launching the IPO was off the table for at least a week, adding United still hoped to float by the end of the fourth quarter.

The club received permission in September from the Singapore Exchange for the IPO.

It plans to use a two-tier share structure, including non-voting preference shares to ensure the Glazer family that owns the club retains control. That structure has drawn criticism from investors and fans.

Sources had told Reuters the Glazers were looking to raise around $1 billion through the sale of 25 to 30 percent of the club, although that valuation had met with skepticism from some commentators.

Sources told Reuters the Glazer family, who bought the club in 2005, are planning to use some of the proceeds from the IPO to reduce the club's debt, a burden that has made the American owners deeply unpopular with some fans.

Duncan Drasdo, chief executive of fans' group Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), said the delay may suggest the club is struggling to secure the support of cornerstone investors for the IPO.

"It's not particularly surprising they might be struggling to get significant interest from investors, because they're going to look at the numbers, and it's an extremely ambitious ask at the valuations being punted around," Drasdo told Reuters.

Equity fundraising worldwide has pretty much ground to a halt as stock markets, which slumped in early August, have yo-yoed due to euro zone debt worries.

Singapore's Straits Times Index (STI) .FTSTI is around 13.5 percent lower than at the start of August, depressing the likely valuation achievable by companies hoping to list.

Although equity capital market activity in Asia has shown signs of picking up sooner than Europe or the U.S., with a string of companies announcing plans for share sales in Hong Kong, the uncertain outlook means many companies would rather hold off until things are more stable.

(Editing by Douwe Miedema, Neil Maidment and David Hulmes)

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