HONG KONG/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - English Premier League soccer champion Manchester United MNU.UL hired Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N) to help manage its $1 billion Singapore stock market listing, sources with direct knowledge of the situation said on Friday.
The club had already appointed Credit Suisse Group CSGN.VX as a global coordinator for the initial public offering (IPO), a source told Reuters on Thursday.
BOC International, Malaysia’s CIMB (CIMB.KL), Singapore’s DBS (DBSM.SI) and Credit Agricole’s (CAGR.PA) CLSA have also joined as co-leads, IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication, said on Friday, adding that pre-marketing for the deal is expected to start in mid-September.
One source told Reuters that United’s owning Glazer family planned to use some of the funds raised from the offering to reduce the club’s huge debt pile, a burden that has made the American Glazers deeply unpopular with many fans.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), which has been among the most vociferous critics of the Glazer’s regime, said the IPO would benefit the family themselves rather than the club.
“The share sale will be in the Glazers’ interests - to pay down their debt - not the club’s. What we wish to see is a full sale to progressive owners who are interested in investing in the club’s future,” MUST said late on Thursday.
MUST, which last year backed plans by a wealthy group of supporters to buy the club which were eventually aborted, said the IPO would make a takeover unlikely.
“The danger is that a partial floatation will provide a poisoned pill to any such progressive potential owners. And by reducing the Glazers’ personal debt we will continue to be saddled with these absentee landlords,” it said.
Sources have told Reuters that England’s most successful club hopes to raise as much as $1 billion from the IPO, which it hopes to complete by the end of the year, with media reports suggesting around 25-30 percent of the club will be sold.
United’s gross debt stood at 478 million pounds ($787 million) at the end of March. The club made a net loss of 84 million pounds in 2010.
The Glazers have been targeted by supporters who are uncomfortable with the club’s debt, despite continued on-field success, inspiring slogans such as “Love United, Hate Glazer” brandished by some fans.
Spokespeople for JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong declined to comment on the IPO mandates. Manchester United also declined to comment.
A Singapore listing will mark a second stock market incarnation for the club, which was listed in London before being taken over by the Glazers in 2005.
Asia, a key region for many English soccer teams, has become an important growth area for United and is home to more than 190 million of its estimated 333 million fans. ($1 = 0.607 British Pounds)
Reporting by Fiona Lau in Hong Kong, Daniel Stanton and Charmian Kok in Singapore, Kylie Maclellan, Neil Maidment and Matt Scuffham in London; Writing by Matt Scuffham and Elzio Barreto; Editing by Chris Lewis and Erica Billingham