Qatari investors are planning a bid for Manchester United (NYSE: MANU) that will “blow the competition out of the water,” according to an unsourced report in The Daily Mail. The story sent shares soaring 15% on the New York Stock Exchange in early Wednesday morning trading.
The report by the UK tabloid says a group of “private, high-wealth individuals”—who are separate from Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), which owns Ligue 1’s Paris Saint-Germain—are looking to buy the Premier League club. The market gains would imply a market cap of $4 billion and an enterprise value, including net debt, of $4.8 billion.
The club did not return a request for comment on The Daily Mail report or stock move.
In November, Man United announced it would consider a sale of the team. “The Board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the Company,” the club stated in a brief press release. It hired Raine Group, which brokered the sale of Chelsea last year, to oversee the process.
Jim Ratcliffe’s company INEOS is the only party that has publicly declared interest in bidding on the club. Ratcliff, the founder, chairman and majority owner of INEOS, is the richest person in the UK with a net worth of $15.5 billion, according to Forbes. A person familiar with the bidding process said others have already submitted bids, declining to be specific.
Currently, the Glazer family controls the club through a class of supervoting shares. Malcolm Glazer, who died in 2014, bought United via a leveraged buyout in 2005 for £790 million pounds ($1.5 billion at the time) and listed the club on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012. If the stock maintains the gains through the day, the $24 share price would be the highest close since the public listing, outside of one month period in the second half of 2018.
United’s largest institutional shareholder at the end of September, Ariel Investments, unloaded 26% of its shares during the fourth quarter when the stock soared after the sale declaration by the Glazers. Ariel had paid between $12 and $14 for most of its stake. It still holds 8.5 million shares.
Last month, Man United topped Sportico’s Premier League valuations at $5.95 billion (£4.8 billion), 26% ahead of second-ranked Liverpool ($4.71 billion). United is the only EPL club to rank among the 10 most valuable sports franchises in North America where the cutoff is $5.1 billion. For the 2022-23 season, the soccer club projects total revenue of £590 million to £610 million ($710 million to $755 million).
United currently sits third in the Premier League standings, one year after the Red Devils posted their lowest totals for wins (16) and points (58) since the league launched in 1992.