By Yantoultra Ngui
Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan is exploring an IPO of British football team Cardiff City for as early as this year, people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, in a deal that would follow the team's recent promotion to the Premier League.
The process is in its early stages, the people said, with details on the timing, size and listing venue subject to change.
A listing would come after Manchester United Plc's debut on the New York Stock Exchange last year, which raised $233.2 million in the largest sports team IPO ever. But prospects for the Welsh team, which does not have Manchester United's track record or as wide a fan base, are unclear.
"There's a pretty mixed history of sport clubs with their IPOs. It's more an emotional investment than a rational one," said Philippe Espinasse, a former investment banker with Nomura and UBS in Hong Kong and author of 'IPO: A Global Guide.'
"I can understand that Manchester (United) was trying to list in Singapore because there is a very big fanbase of Manchester United in Southeast Asia, but it doesn't look like this is one of the major clubs."
Tan, who owns 36.1 percent of the club and is the former chairman of conglomerate Berjaya Group, has engaged at least one investment bank to lead the process, according to the people.
The initial plan is to list the club on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange, one of the people said. The deal may be completed as early as this year, another person said. The sources declined to be identified as the information was not public.
The proposed deal, like any corporate transaction in its early stages, may go ahead, change direction, or be scrapped altogether.
Tan was unavailable for comment. He is Malaysia's 10th richest person with a net worth of $1.3 billion, according to Forbes.
Malaysia's IPO market, normally among Asia's quietest, roared to life last year with several multibillion dollar listings, lifting the Kuala Lumpur exchange to rank No. 4 globally for new listing proceeds.
Still, should Tan and his advisers elect to list the club on his home turf, the listed entity would stand in stark contrast to the predominantly local groups on the Kuala Lumpur exchange.
Unlike Singapore or Hong Kong, two cities with a large international investor presence and an array of multi-national corporations, Malaysia's equity market is made up mostly of domestic funds investing in local companies.
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