Man United shares make flat market debut


By Keith Weir and Michael Erman ,Reuters

LONDON/NEW YORK — Shares in Manchester United Ltd. made a flat stock market debut on Friday, a disappointment for the world’s most famous soccer club but one it insisted would have no effect on its ability to acquire top-flight players. Manchester United sold 16.7 million shares at a price of US$14 each, below the expected range of US$16 to US$20, and shares closed unchanged.

The stock never dipped below US$14, held mostly in a five-cent range and saw volume thin sharply after early trading. One IPO expert said the team may have made a serious miscalculation about the support it would receive. “They overestimated the willingness of the fan base to go buy the stock. So it’s kind of sitting there right now,” said Francis Gaskins, editor of IPOdesktop.com. “If they don’t have any buyers now at this price, why would they have any buyers (next week).” A mystery to most Americans but a household name in most of the world, the club listed on a U.S. exchange after pulling a planned IPO in Singapore earlier this year. Finance experts expressed some wonder that the offering went off at all, given a share structure that lets the team’s owners retain control. “It’s surprising to me that they got it away given the structure. The ownership structure seems inappropriate to me for this sort of company. I don’t see much in it for the outside investor who has no control,” said Tim Jenkinson, a professor of finance at the Said Business School, University of Oxford. Following the offering, Manchester United will have a dual-class share structure that will leave its owners, the Florida-based Glazer family, with 98.7 percent of the voting power, according to regulatory filings. The offering valued the 19-time English champions at US$2.3 billion. The US$233 million ultimately raised in the IPO will be split equally between the 134-year-old club and the Glazers, owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL team. Two of family patriarch Malcolm Glazer’s sons rang the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange to start trading, while two were on the trading floor — surrounded by traders standing on Astroturf and wearing Manchester United uniforms.