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Manchester United worth $2.3 billion

The club will start trading on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker "MANU".

Manchester United arrives at Cape Town International Airport on 20 July 2012 ahead of their clash against Ajax Cape Town. Picture: Alicia Pillay/EWN

NEW YORK - The team priced 16,7 million shares, as planned, and raised $233,2 million (R1.9 billion), about $100 million (R810 million) less than it had hoped. It will start trading on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker "MANU" with the team's management expected to ring the opening bell at the stock market.

While the deal still makes it the largest sports-team IPO on record, the club value is much below what the club and its owners, the Glazer family, were expecting: as much as $3.3 billion (R26.7bn). But one analyst said shareholders were still paying up.

"I'm surprised it wasn't more of a discount," said Ken Perkins, an analyst with Morningstar. "Our value was around $10. It's still a rich price -- they're asking people to pay up a lot to take on a lot of operational and financial risk."

The lower proceeds are a setback for the club, which is planning to use the money to pay down a pile of debt that was put on the team during the 2005 leveraged buyout by the Glazer family. Manchester United's debt load stood at over 437 million pounds as of June 30. The Glazers bought the previously debt-free club for 790 million pounds.

The Glazers, an American family whose interests include shopping centres and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team, will also take in less money from the share sale. The Glazers, who are selling half of the shares in the offering, have not said what they intend to do with the money.

Some fans of the team have protested the IPO, criticising the Glazers for only using half of the deal's proceeds to pay down debt. They argue that this hefty debt load has led to reduced financial flexibility which came at the expense of investment in players and the team's performance.

Manchester United expected to price shares in a range of $16 to $20. The deal would have raised $333 million (R2.7bn) if it priced at the high end of its range.

Valuation had been a key question going into the IPO. Last year, the club tried to go public in Singapore but aborted the deal. Morgan Stanley, which was part of the underwriting syndicate, quit, with the owner's valuation expectations being one of the reasons.

This time around, the underwriters led by Jefferies Group Inc pitched the club to potential investors not as a sports franchise but as a global consumer brand.

Key Facts:

  • Manchester United is ranked number on by Forbes on its list of the world's 50 most valuable sports teams.

  • The club was bought by Malcolm Glazer in 2005 in a deal valued at around 800 million pounds.

  • Floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1991.