Motor racing boss sees Formula One flotation by year end

Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:02pm EDT

* Formula One looking at flotation late this year - CEO

* Singapore remains favoured destination

* Listing plans put on hold in 2012 because of volatile markets

By Keith Weir

LONDON, April 29 (Reuters) - The company behind Formula One motor racing could be floated in Singapore at the end of this year if markets remain benign, the sport's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said on Monday.

Plans to raise up to $3 billion by listing the firm that runs the high-speed racing series were pulled last June amid market turmoil following the flotation of social network group Facebook, which saw its shares plunge after their debut.

Ecclestone confirmed a report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper that the Formula One company structure had been reorganised in preparation for a fresh attempt at a listing in Singapore by the end of 2013.

"It's (the listing) not been confirmed yet but provided the markets are sensible, that is what is going to happen," Ecclestone told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Last year, I thought it was the wrong time," he added. "Things are looking more positive generally."

Global equity fundraising rose 24 percent in the first three months of 2013 on the back of stronger markets and easing concerns about the state of the global economy.

Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners is the largest shareholder in Formula One, with a stake of 35.5 percent and has been the main owner of the business since 2006.

CVC last year raised $2.1 billion through the sales of stakes in the business to U.S. investment groups BlackRock and Waddell & Reed and Norway's Norges Bank Investment Management. Those deals cut its ownership from 63 percent.

Ecclestone said he believed CVC would want to maintain a stake in the business. "They certainly wouldn't want to dump all their shares," he said.

CVC declined to comment.

The billionaire Ecclestone retains a five percent stake in the business which has commercial rights to Formula One for the next 97 years.

Now 82, Ecclestone has transformed the sport from a pastime for wealthy enthusiasts into a money-spinner that stages around the globe watched by millions.

Ecclestone said he had no plans to sell any of his stake and has always dismissed talk of retirement.

He suggested that any flotation could wait until the season had ended in November.

"I think that would be the right thing to do," he said.

Flotation in Singapore, which stages a race in September, would allow Formula One to tap into Asia's appetite for luxury brands and its interest in sport.

Formula One had revenues of $1.5 billion in 2011. It earns money from fees paid by circuits to host races, the sale of television rights, sponsorship and corporate hospitality.

German Sebastian Vettel of the Red Bull team is leading the world championship after four races this season. Vettel has won the title for the past three seasons.

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