Malaysian tycoon may list EPL club here

PHOTO: Malaysian tycoon may list EPL club here

Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan is in talks with investment bankers in a lead-up to an initial public offering of his English Premier League club Cardiff City.

The listing of the football club is likely in the second half of next year, say industry sources.

The Straits Times understands that Mr Tan, 61, who bought the club three years ago when it was on the brink of insolvency, is mulling over a possible listing venue.

He is looking at two options: to list on home turf on Bursa Malaysia which is largely dominated by big state-owned funds and domestic investors, or pitch the offering to a wider investor base on the Singapore Exchange.

However, sources close to the listing plans - which are at a "very early stage" - said that Bursa Malaysia is likely to be the preferred venue.

If it pans out as scheduled, Cardiff City's stock offering will take place two years after that of a much bigger football club.

In August last year, Manchester United was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in a deal that raised some US$233 million (S$289 million).

"Obviously, one can't compare to Man U which is a global brand, whereas Cardiff is truly just a football club and not a giant enterprise," said an analyst.

Since Mr Tan, Malaysia's 10th richest man, bought a 36 per cent stake in Cardiff City in 2010, the generally low-key owner of a sprawling and diverse business empire has drawn considerable curiosity and flak.

A turbulent episode is currently being played out which is threatening to wreck Cardiff City's maiden season in the English Premier League (EPL).

Mr Tan's recent decision to replace the football club's head of recruitment with a 23-year-old from Kazakhstan who specialises in painting and decorating has raised criticism on whether the successful entrepreneur could be out of his depth when it comes to football matters.

There is also talk of serious strains between Mr Tan and Cardiff City's widely respected manager Malky Mackay.

Irate fans have also not forgotten Mr Tan's decision last year to switch the football team's blue home jerseys to red, all for the sake of good luck.

Against this backdrop, it would be interesting to see how he pitches the appeal of Cardiff City to the investing fraternity.

This would not be the only asset the entrepreneur is looking to list. Last December, Sports Toto Malaysia (STM), a leading lottery operator controlled by Mr Tan, secured a conditional nod from the SGX to list as a business trust.

But the exercise was delayed owing to the then uncertain outcome of the Malaysian general election in May.

The conditional approval had lapsed and STM-Trust had sought an extension from the SGX. Last week, it was granted a new conditional eligibility-to-list letter which will be valid until mid-January next year.

This time, it included two new conditions - that the IPO should involve a minimum issue price of 50 cents a share, and the prospectus should include a valuation report that is not more than six months old from Sept 27 this year.

The tycoon appears to be on an aggressive drive to monetise his assets as he is also planning to list other private assets, namely convenience store chain 7-Eleven Malaysia, online payments firm MOL Global and mobile phone operator U-Mobile. - See more at: