Gill confident of United growth

United, bought by the Glazer family in 2005 for about

?800million, on Thursday offered 16.7m shares – equal to a 10%

stake – at a price of 14 US dollars (around ?9) each before listing

on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, but there was little

price movement in early trading.

The offering was substantially lower than the 16 to 20 US

dollars originally proposed by its advisers – which would have

valued the club at ?2.1 billion at the top end.

Yet Gill said the arrival of the Glazers and the debt the club

subsequently incurred had not hampered the success Sir Alex

Ferguson’s men had enjoyed on the pitch.

And he pinpointed the example of their shirt sponsorship deal

with Chevrolet as proof that their growth revenue remained as

strong as ever.

“The level of debt that we’ve had at the club since they’ve

taken over hasn’t impacted what we’ve done as a team,” Gill told

Sky Sports News.

“We’ve won four Premier Leagues, we’ve been to the Champions

League final three times, we’ve had ongoing success on the

pitch.

“We fully understand and the owners fully understand that what

happens on the pitch is crucial to us and we will make sure there

are sufficient funds to invest in the team going forward.

“We’re comfortable with the leverage we’ve had and we believe

that given the growth opportunity we’ve got ahead of us – for

example we’ve signed Chevrolet to a seven-year shirt sponsorship

commencing in 2014, which is over twice what our current shirt

sponsors make – we’ve got a lot of interesting and good

opportunities to improve our cash flow going forward.”

As trading started, United’s co-chairmen Avram and Joel Glazer

and Gill applauded from the stock exchange balcony, which was

adorned with the club’s emblem, while New York traders wore the

club’s trademark red home kit.

The lower flotation price comes after the Glazer family, which

also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American football team,

previously failed to garner sufficient support to sell shares on

exchanges in Hong Kong and Singapore.

However, United, which claims to have a global fan base of about

660million and has won a record 19 league titles, is still one of

the world’s most valuable sports teams.

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 initial public offering would reportedly result in

investors owning 42% of the shares available but only carrying

voting rights of 1.3%.

Trading under the stock market ticker Manu, shares rose but then

pulled back to stand still at the 14 US dollar mark.

Shavaz Dhalla, financial trader at Spreadex, said: “After

opening positively, possibly caused by smaller retail investors

looking to pick up a token share, the club’s share price slowly

began to retrace and drop early gains.

“Clearly, investors who are actually looking for a return as

well as a shareholder voting right are steering clear.”

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 planned 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.”