Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Asian fans make Liverpool "attractive" for takeover

The board of current European club champion, Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, has confirmed to shareholders that it "is continuing discussions with a number of parties regarding a potential investment of new funds into the club." Although the structure of any such investment is uncertain, it may include an offer for the entire share capital of the club. According to Chris Noon in Forbes, this expected a share valuation of about £200 million.

Liverpool has its eye on a £170 million stadium change but the price of a new 60,000-seater development has almost doubled, Noon reported, so outside investment is practically inevitable. Additional funds would allow the record 18-time English champion to buy the players needed to compete with Chelsea and chase a first league title since 1990.

Although Liverpool chairman David Moores is not known to be looking to yield his entire 51 percent shareholding, several names have been mentioned in connection with new investment to the club including Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the club's third largest sharegolder and British building magnate Steve Morgan, Hollywood-based film producer Mike Jefferies and the US NFL's New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Bloomberg recalled that GMM Grammy Pcl, Thailand's biggest music-recording company, offered to buy 30 percent of Liverpool in June 2004. Paiboon Damrongchaitham, chairman and 53 percent stakeholder of Grammy, said in September he was still in contact with Liverpool.

On Wednesday, the club said that it was in talks with a shortlist of fewer than 10 possible investors but media reports are focusing on Spanish tycoon Juan Villalonga, the former president of Iberian telecoms giant Telefonica.

"I want to change Liverpool from a domestically focused club into a global force," Villalonga told the Daily Express two days ago.

Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, added that the club was an attractive one for potential investors. "Few clubs have such a brand and such history," he said, as quoted by Soccer Investor (29 march 2006). "Liverpool has the ability to sell merchandise on a global basis, like Manchester United. Both are very well known and supported throughout Asia," he added.

Liverpool's website is currently polling fans resident in Thailand, Singapore and Japan.

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