Soccer-Troubled CSKA Sofia seek to raise $6.3 mln from IPO

SOFIA, March 5 (Reuters) - Troubled CSKA Sofia, Bulgaria’s most successful soccer club, hope to raise nine million levs ($6.32 million) in an initial public offering (IPO), they said on Wednesday.

CSKA, who will be the first Bulgarian club to be publicly traded, won 31 league titles and reached three European semi-finals between 1967 and 1989 but have hit difficult times of late with crippling levels of debt.

CSKA, controlled by Luxembourg-based Lira Investment S.A., will offer three million new shares - around a 30 percent stake in the club - to investors at the Bulgarian Stock Exchange on March 19.

“Three million shares will be offered to investors at a price of three levs ($2.11) per share,” Lira Investment’s representative in Bulgaria Alexander Tomov told a news conference at the Bulgarska Armiya stadium.

“A survey showed that several tens of thousands CSKA fans would buy shares,” he said.

Lira Investment completed a deal for the acquisition of 92 percent of the club from Bulgarian company Titan Sport in August last year.

“The real valuation of the shares was five levs but we reduced it because of our fans,” Tomov said, adding that the new management had lowered the club’s debts to creditors, former players and coaches from 40 million levs in August to less than 16 million levs ($11.24 million) at present.

Tomov said that the new funds will be used to cover part of the debt, help the youth academy and develop the club as a whole.

The state’s financial regulator (FSC) confirmed on Friday the prospectus for the initial public offering of club’s shares.

“It’s a great recognition for our efforts and a big step forward,” Tomov said.

CSKA lost their place in the Champions League in 2008 after failing to meet the domestic football union’s licensing criteria. The club also withdrew from the Europa League due to serious financial problems last year.

Most of the Bulgarian clubs face considerable infrastructure difficulties and are struggling to meet administrative, legal and financial conditions set by European soccer’s governing body UEFA.

$1 = 1.4231 Bulgarian levs Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Justin Palmer