MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Shares of Premier League club Manchester United rose sharply Thursday ahead of the deadline for takeover bids and reported interest from Saudi Arabia.
The stock closed at $26.84, up almost 10%, on the New York Stock Exchange, with potential buyers expected to submit initial offers Friday to merchant bank Raine Group, which is handling the sale for United’s current owners, the Glazer family.
With a bid also expected to come from Qatar, reports of a move from Saudi Arabia could heighten the possibility of the sale price reaching an estimated $6 billion.
Jim Ratcliffe, the British billionaire owner of petrochemicals giant INEOS, is the only contender to publicly confirm his intention to bid, but there has been increased speculation about wider interest in recent days.
The Telegraph reported Thursday that groups in Saudi Arabia are interested in bidding.
Friday has been described as a soft deadline before the sale process gathers pace.
The Glazers, who also own the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, announced on Nov. 21 their intention to seek outside funding. Since then, United’s share price has more than doubled from $13.08 on the day of the announcement.
Saudi interest has long been speculated and latest reports come on the back of an expected bid from another Middle Eastern country, Qatar.
There could also be interest from America after a host of U.S. bidders entered the race to buy Chelsea last year.
The Glazers have repeatedly resisted attempts from United fans to drive them out since buying the club in 2005.
The possibility of partial investment as well as a full sale have been explored.
It is not known if any potential buyer is prepared to go as high as the widely estimated price of $6 billion given the extra level of investment required to redevelop Old Trafford stadium.
Raine handled the sale of Chelsea, which was bought by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital for $3 billion — a record for a soccer team.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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