Manchester United slides as Ratcliffe’s stake bid report dents buyout hopes

(Reuters) -Shares of Manchester United fell about 10% on Monday after reports that British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe is looking to acquire a 25% stake in the soccer club raised concerns that a full buyout by Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani could be off the table.

The stock touched its lowest level in more than four months at $17.95.

Ineos Chair Jim Ratcliffe would pay over $1.5 billion for the stake in Manchester United if his bid for the soccer club is accepted by the Glazer family that controls it, Reuters reported on Sunday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Ratcliffe’s bid puts the club’s valuation close to $6.5 billion, excluding net debt of more than $600 million, the report said, topping a rival offer from Qatar’s Jassim for 100% of the Premier League club.

“The sharp drop in Manchester United shares reflects disappointment that a full sale of the club seems unlikely to go through,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

“Shareholders may have been hoping for a quick exit via a bid for the whole club, rather than getting the option to stick around and see if the past triumphs can be repeated on and off the pitch.”

A large number of fans have been clamoring for a change of ownership because the Glazers have overseen a significant downturn in the club’s fortunes, with the club winning just the last of their 20 top-flight titles.

Jassim informed the Glazer family a few days ago that he will not raise his bid of more than $6 billion for Manchester United, which had a market capitalization of $3.26 billion as of Friday’s close.

While the stock trades at a premium compared to November 2022 when a potential sale was announced, it has shed more than 20% this year with no firm outcome yet in the battle for the club.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)