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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Jasper Jolly

Manchester United shares in record fall after report of sale U-turn

Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium
The Glazer family had sought bids for Manchester United. Photograph: Greig Cowie/Shutterstock

Manchester United shares have suffered their steepest single-day fall in price after a report claimed the Glazer family was considering a U-turn on plans to sell the club.

Shares in the Premier League club dropped by 18.2% on Tuesday to $19.35 (£15.40), the biggest daily drop since they were listed the New York stock exchange in 2012.

The valuation drop came after a report that claimed the club’s owners had decided to take it off the market after a prolonged sales process that has cast a shadow of uncertainty over United.

The American Glazer family, led by the brothers Joel and Avram, had sought bids for the club. The Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani and the British chemicals billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe had lodged bids that valued it in the billions of pounds, with the former’s thought to be up to £6bn.

However, the Mail on Sunday reported that the Glazers were holding out for a much higher bid, and potentially as much as £10bn. The report said the Glazers would wait until 2025 to sell the club, when increased television rights revenues and the expansion of the football World Cup could make the club appear more valuable.

A £10bn valuation would go far beyond the £4.25bn achieved by Chelsea, a record for a sports club, albeit one pushed through in a forced sale after the London club’s previous owner, Roman Abramovich, was placed under UK sanctions.

United have had a tricky start to the Premier League season, and are 11th after four games in the Dutch manager Erik ten Hag’s second season in charge. United beat Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest but lost to Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

United’s share price implied a valuation of only $3.15bn on Tuesday night, although a buyer of the club – or most companies – would expect to pay a significant premium. The market valuation peaked at $4.5bn at the height of the bidding battle.

The Glazers bought United in 2005 for £790m but sold 10% of the club in the stock market listing in 2012. That listing coincided with the last season with Sir Alex Ferguson as manager, and United’s last Premier League title.

Since then, the club have gone through a series of managers, none of whom have been able to return United to the top of English football, despite two second-place finishes.

The deterioration in the club’s on-field performance – and the dominance of rivals Manchester City after a takeover by the Abu Dhabi royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan – has led to persistent criticism of the Glazers by fan groups, and repeated protests inside and outside the stadium.

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