Manchester United Supporters’ Trust calls on owners to come clean over IPO numbers - 659 million fans - are you having a laugh?
For immediate release, Wednesday 8th August
The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, the independent voice of Manchester United fans in more than 100 countries, has today called on the owners of Manchester United Ltd. to come clean on the numbers they are using to promote their proposed Initial Public Offering (IPO). Speaking on the eve of the proposed share sale in New York, MUST is championing the interests of potential investors by making two demands of the Glazer family:
1. To substantiate on what basis they are claiming 659 million followers (also confusingly referred to as fans in the IPO video presentation) around the world. Investors should be able to see the source material of the "independent research" the club’s management are citing, published in full. Our understanding is that far from being independent the survey was actually commissioned and paid for by Manchester United. What EXACTLY is their definition of a follower? And a fan? These numbers have been widely criticized including by independent authorities on the matter such as Sporting Intelligence (see article below)
2. To disclose current take-up of season tickets and club memberships for the 2012/13 season. The club has claimed in its prospectus and investor roadshow that 80% of match tickets are sold at the start of the season, and the club can claim '99% occupancy' of seats for all games. Other sources suggest a continued fall in demand and that is certainly the experience of supporters trying to sell on unwanted tickets which often now go to waste or end up being given away.
The owners must answer these key questions about the figures being used to promote their IPO and clearly these are figures that could materially impact on perceived valuation of the company. Failure to do so could well leave them open to a post-IPO class action law suit by disgruntled investors if these figures turn out to be misleading.
A spokesman for the Manchester United Shareholders' Trust, commented:
"We have made it clear that on the Glazers' terms, the share sale is a bad deal for fans, investors and the club. For the club, this is a bad deal because more than half of the funds raised will now be paid direct to the Glazer family, with a smaller portion being used to pay down some of their debt which they have saddled the club with since 2005. For fans, it is a bad deal because it is a missed opportunity for more equitable ownership of our club, with proper distribution of voting rights; and by floating shares at this inflated price, it provides a poisoned pill which might deter any more enlightened owners from buying the club in future.
Yet above all this share sale is a bad deal for investors – to whom we'd say 'buyer beware'. Not only are the shares overpriced, coming with minimal voting rights and poor corporate governance – but we are highly doubtful of the misleading marketing claims of the club's management, upon which their highly ambitious float price is predicated.
The club is claiming that 659 million people - one in ten of the world’s population – is a United follower. To put that in context, Facebook has 901m users. While we’d love to think so, in reality I doubt if one in ten people in Stockport, let alone Jakarta, supports United actively to the extent they would pay money to the club. The club should justify that figure and clarify how it is counting 'fans' and 'followers'.
Secondly, we feel the club should give proper guidance on ticket sales. United season ticket holders and members who have been contacted by the club recently will know it has had to try harder than ever before to sell tickets – not least because of the economic situation, and the inflation busting price rises particularly under the earlier years of the Glazers’ ownership. Match-going United fans continue to be the commercial lifeblood of the club, but we will not have our loyalty milked so contemptuously forever – and we are sure broadcast partners and investors will not want to see empty seats in Old Trafford this season. Again, we’d like to see the club come clean on its claims."
A recent article published by respected analysts Sporting Intelligence on 7th June dismantles the Glazers' claims of 659 million followers/fans & correctly predicts (two months prior to it happening) the commissioning of the survey would be linked to another IPO attempt.
Full article here:
United fans wishing to register their opposition to the terms of the proposed share sale and IPO can join MUST at www.joinmust.org