|A Manchester United banner hangs outside the New York Stock Exchange. (AP)
London/New York, Aug. 10 (Reuters): Shares in Manchester United Ltd made a flat stock market debut today, 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 as planned, but at a price of $14 each, below the expected range of $16 to $20.
At 1545GMT the shares were unchanged, with turnover tapering off sharply following an initial surge. The stock never dipped below $14 and was mostly steady within a five-cent range. One of the club’s top officials said the team took less money than planned because it preferred the mix of investors involved at the lower price.
“We priced below the range because as you sort of took a step back and looked at the book, the huge number of high-quality institutional investors that were there at $14 just made us more comfortable in terms of the longer-term view here with regard to the type of investor base we wanted,” said Ed Woodward, vice chairman of Manchester United, in an interview.
A mystery to most Americans but a household name in most of the world, the club listed on a US exchange after pulling a planned IPO in Singapore earlier this year. The offering valued the 19-times English champions at $2.3 billion but shaved as much as $100 million off the proceeds that had been expected for the team and its owners.
The $233 million ultimately raised in the IPO will be split equally between the 134-year-old club and its owners, the Florida-based Glazer family, owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL team among other interests.
Two of family patriarch Malcolm Glazer’s sons rang the opening bell to start trading, while two were on the trading floor — surrounded by traders standing on Astroturf and wearing Manchester United uniforms.
The loss of as much as $50 million in expected proceeds for the club will be a blow as it copes with a debt burden and seeks to buy new players, who cost tens of millions of dollars each. But Woodward denied forcefully that there was any shortage of cash for player transfers.
“Clearly if you look at where we are today in terms of the cash generative nature of the business and even more so contractually going forward, we have huge firepower in the transfer market,” he said. United had debt of £423 million at the end of March, which the executive said was its lowest in years.