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Saudi private group bid for Manchester United expected ahead of today’s deadline

Investing in sport: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.© via REUTERS

Tom Morgan and Sam

Saudi Arabia has joined the race to buy Manchester United and bids have already been tabled by other potential investors ahead of today’s deadline.

Multiple private groups in Riyadh have made inquiries and look set to battle Qatar and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe in what could be the biggest deal in sporting history.

Detailed offers have already been received by the Glazers – who want around £5bn (€5.6bn) for the club – but the family is keeping its options open. As it stands, an outright sale is most likely in line with hopes to complete a deal by the end of April.

Due to United’s status on the New York Stock Exchange, brokers acting for the club are duty-bound to consider offers even after today’s soft deadline expires. However, extensive offers, detailing investors’ plans and source of funding, are still expected this week amid a late surge of total buyout and minority investment interest – a factor that yesterday saw the club’s value rocket upwards in excess of £333 million (€374m).

Whether Saudi Arabia proceeds with tabling an offer remains to be seen, but intermediaries acting for several groups in the country have signed for sale materials.

Under the Vision 2030 agenda championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, billions have already been spent on sport as the controversial country attempts to diversify away from oil.

Sources close to the country’s £515bn (€587bn) Public Investment Fund (PIF) have played down the likelihood of a state-backed bid to the regime at Newcastle United.

United have partnered with Saudi Telecom, the country’s biggest telecommunications company, before. They also agreed a strategic partnership in 2017 that saw United help Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority to develop its football industry.

The Qatar Investment Authority has also signalled it will table an offer. An immediate priority for the country is in seeking assurances that Uefa would not block a takeover on the basis of the ownership at PSG of QIA subsidiary, Qatar Sports Investments.

British billionaire Ratcliffe, the CEO of INEOS, has yet to send over financials to United but he is expected to send a full proposal today, having secured backing from global banking giants JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

Any Saudi Arabian investment at United would prompt outrage from human rights groups.

Despite attempts at modernisation in Saudi Arabia, the nation continues to behead alleged criminals and the nation’s international reputation remains tarnished by the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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