Manchester United picks NYSE for IPO

Tue Jul 3, 2012 7:15pm EDT

A Manchester United supporter adjusts a club scarf before their Europa League second leg round of 32 soccer match against Ajax at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, February 23, 2012. REUTERS/Phil Noble

A Manchester United supporter adjusts a club scarf before their Europa League second leg round of 32 soccer match against Ajax at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England, February 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

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(Reuters) - Manchester United Ltd picked the New York Stock Exchange to make its market debut, ending months of speculation over where the world's best-supported soccer club would list.

The former English soccer champions pulled a planned $1 billion listing in Singapore because of market turmoil. It had earlier eyed a Hong Kong IPO.

Thomson Reuters publication IFR reported last month that the football club had dropped its plans for an Asian listing in favor of a U.S. listing.

Manchester United has a global fan base of 659 million, according to a survey commissioned by the club and carried out last year by market researcher Kantar. Almost half of United's supporters were in Asia-Pacific.

"It remains to be seen how much the football club is going to benefit in the US where the sport is not very popular ... The perfect place for it to have listed should have been London," Jay Ritter, a University of Florida IPO expert told Reuters.

The club, founded in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR Football Club, plays its home games at Old Trafford in Greater Manchester.

The club's American proprietors, the Glazer family, are well known in the United States as owners of American football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

However, they have faced opposition from United fans after taking over the club in 2005 in a leveraged buyout that left it saddled with hefty debt repayments.

The club's total debt as on March 31 was 423.3 million pounds ($663.67 million), according to the filing.

It intends to use the net proceeds from this offering to repay debt.

"It is going to come down to the valuation. U.S. investors are not going to jump on it right away," Josef Schuster, founder of Chicago-based financial services firm IPOX Schuster LLC.

IPO DETAILS

Manchester United filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering of its Class A ordinary shares.

The Glazer family will hold class B shares, which will have 10 votes each, representing 67 percent of the voting power of all shareholders, effectively keeping the club's management within its control.

Jefferies, Credit Suisse, J.P. Morgan, BofA Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank Securities are underwriting the IPO, Manchester United said in a preliminary prospectus. This leaves out Morgan Stanley, which was one of the investment banks originally expected to underwrite the Singapore listing.

United, which has been English league champions a record 19 times and has featured players such as England's David Beckham and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

The filing did not reveal how many shares it plans to sell or their expected price.

The amount of money a company says it plans to raise in its first IPO filings is used to calculate registration fees. The final size of the IPO could be different.

(Reporting by Sharanya Hrishikesh and Ashutosh Pandey in Bangalore; Additional reporting by Kartick Jagtap; Editing by Supriya Kurane)

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