Man Utd Flotation Starts On Wall Street
Executives of Manchester United have rung the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange, at the start of the flotation of the football club's shares.
Co-chairmen Avram and Joel Glazer and chief executive David Gill applauded from the exchange's iconic balcony when trading started at 9.30am, New York time.
Glazer family patriarch Malcolm Glazer was not on the balcony, however executive vice chairman Edward Woodward was at the ceremony in New York's financial heart.
Manchester United confirmed that neither Sir Alex Ferguson nor any players would be there for the traditional ceremony, as the ritual came amid a controversial partial flotation.
The $14 (£9) per share opening price for the football club's stock has been set significantly below expectations and would see $233.2m (£149.1m) raised from the sale of 16.7 million shares, about $100m less than predicted.
The Glazer family also owns American football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - which starts its pre-season competition on Friday night.
Shares soon started trading at slightly above the opening price, at $14.05, but volumes were considered modest.
The price was still lower than the $16 to $20 the club had been hoping for, and leaves the club valued just above $2.3bn (£1.5bn) - much lower than the up to $3.3bn (£2.1bn) the club and its owners, the Glazer family, were expecting.
The US-based family failed to garner sufficient demand in previous efforts to sell shares on Asian exchanges in Hong Kong and Singapore, where the team garners huge support.
Analysts at data provider Morningstar earlier told the Financial Times that $10 per share would be a fair value, adding: "Shares could trade at a significant premium to our fair value estimate if the market values the soccer team in line with other successful sports franchises."
Proceeds from the initial public offering (IPO) will be used to pay down some of the 134-year-old club's debt, which was last reported at more than £400m.
Although the listing has been planned for some time, the Glazer family originally claimed all the proceeds would go towards United's debt, angering fans.
A successful IPO would reportedly result in investors owning 42% of the shares available but only carrying voting rights of 1.3%.
Earlier this month, a leading Manchester United fans' group called for a boycott of the club's expanding portfolio of sponsors in protest at the flotation.
A statement from the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) read: "The Manchester United Supporters Trust has today called for a worldwide boycott of Manchester United sponsors' products, with support across the UK, Europe, Asia and the US.
"The boycott strategy is intended to send a loud and clear message to the Glazer family and club sponsors that, without the support and purchasing power of the fans, the global strength of the Manchester United brand doesn't actually exist."
Critics have pointed to a complex controlling structure, with Cayman Island companies and family secrecy, as other reasons for a boycott.