Man United list price below expectation

The world's most popular sports team is getting ready to list its stock on the world's largest exchange.

British soccer club Manchester United priced its initial public offering at $US14 a share on Thursday. That's below the $US16 to $US20 range that had been widely expected.

The stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday as Manchester United tries to pay off more of the heavy debt piled on the club in its 2005 takeover.

The 134-year-old club, with a record 19 English championships, is one of the most well-known sports teams on the planet. But some analysts say the offering is dependent on investors wearing their fan colours rather than their financial thinking caps.

"It's really trading on the level of fan interest as opposed to any sort of financial interest," said Sam Hamadeh, CEO of PrivCo LLC, which researches privately held companies.

"A winning team does not make a winning investment."

The Glazer family's 2005 leveraged takeover was valued at $US1.47 billion, much of it borrowed. United carried $US666.2 million in debt as of March 31. It had no debt when it was bought in 2005.

After the stock offering, the Glazers will keep control of the team through Class B shares with 10 times the voting power of the stock that would be sold to the public.

Analysts are sceptical because the team is not a high-growth company like a tech startup and is heavily in debt.

Manchester United is hoping to expand its lucrative sponsorships and licensing deals. The team sold five million branded licensed products last year.

Earlier this month it announced a $US559 million, seven-year shirt sponsorship agreement with Chevrolet. Commercial revenue rose 34 per cent in 2011 to total $US159.8 million.

Deals such as these are only one third of the business, said Renaissance Capital analyst Nick Einhorn. The other two thirds come from less-glamorous broadcast fees and ticket sales.

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