takeover | 

Manchester United reportedly ready to take formal bids to buy the club from interested parties

Other candidates who missed out on buying Chelsea last year are known to have also returned with approaches.

Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium. Photo: PA/Reuters© AP

Online editorsIndependent.ie

According to British media reports, Manchester United have received takeover inquiries from the Middle East, Asia and America and are ready to invite formal bids from interested parties by a mid-February deadline.

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, a United fan, is keeping a close eye on the situation closely, with an offer from him expected, even though formal talks are yet to begin between hm and the club.

Other candidates who missed out on buying Chelsea last year are known to have also returned with approaches.

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In the next month, potential global investors will go public with their interest, as a mid-February invite is expected for formal offers.

This fits in with the schedule of having a deal completed before the end of the current season. It means varying prices, depending on Champions League qualification, could be factored in.

It has not been clarified yet whether the Glazers want to end their controversial 18-year ownership completely. United are expected to inform interested parties in the coming days that formal bids will be taken next month for total buyouts as well as minority stakes.

There appears to be some flexibility around the mid-February deadline, but the club aims to complete a deal within the first quarter or by the end of April.

Ministers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have previously played down the chances of a state-backed buyout, given competing interests at Newcastle United and Paris Saint Germain.

However, other well-placed sources have warned against ruling out the two nations. Much of the frenzy to buy Chelsea was in America last spring, and while there is again keen appetite in the US, there have been conversations with a host of wealthy Arabic investors as well as interest from Asia.

Co-owner Avram Glazer flew to the World Cup in Doha last month and held a number of informal meetings. However, New York-based investment bank the Raine Group remains the first port of call for interested parties.

Ratcliffe, one of Britain's richest men, is thought to be ready to table a figure dependent on the club's qualification for the Champions League this May.

But, having swooped late with a bid during the Chelsea takeover saga last year, he is again leaving it late to enter any direct talks with United.

At United, a price between £6 billion and £8 billion has been touted, but insiders remain tight-lipped about the Glazers' ballpark price. Ratcliffe is known to be wary about overpaying.

Ratcliffe has supported United since boyhood and attended the 1999 Champions League final.

United have spent more than £1.1 billion servicing the Glazers’ leveraged takeover in 2005, while the Americans have pocketed around £465 million in share sales and the club’s gross debt still stands at an eye-watering £680 million.

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