GFH Capital extends talks in Leeds Utd takeover

Bahrain bank has been in talks with British football club chairman since September
Leeds United fans. (Getty Images)
By Claire Valdini
Sun 18 Nov 2012 11:26 AM

GFH Capital, the Dubai-based investment bank behind a potential takeover of British football club Leeds United, has been granted an extension to an exclusivity period as it looks to complete the deal.

GFH Capital, a unit of Bahrain’s Gulf Finance House (GFH), has been in talks with the Championship side's chairman Ken Bates for several weeks and the two parties now have additional time to finalise the takeover.

“The fact that we are in such advanced talks means this extended exclusivity window is merely to ensure we can get past the final post without distraction,” David Haigh, deputy CEO at GFH Capital, said in a statement.

“We have come so far and are looking forward to what we hope will be a positive statement about change in ownership of Leeds United shortly,” he added.

Gulf Finance Capital in September said it planned to purchase Leeds United but protracted negations between the two sides have sparked frustration from fans.

Haigh last month shrugged off claims parent company Gulf Finance House cannot finance the takeover after The Daily Telegraph reported it held less than US$6.4m in cash as of June this year, $1.28bn less than at the end of 2008.

“The financials are the parent company’s, not ours,” Haigh said.  “All I can say is the money is available but I can’t give you any more detail because we are a listed entity,” he added.

GFH was hit hard by the global financial downturn and struggled during 2010 to pay back the debt it took on during the Gulf property boom that ended in 2008.

The firm has restructured a number of debt facilities since 2010. In July, it extended the repayment of a US$45m Sharia-compliant debt, part of a US$100m facility which was initially restructured in March 2010, and in May it extended a US$110m sukuk.

It earned a US$4.7m profit in the second quarter of this year, up from a loss of US$11.2m a year earlier.

“We believe Leeds is in a fantastically unique position for all sorts of factors,” Haigh told The Daily Telegraph.

“We think Leeds has a fantastic existing management and administration on and off the pitch and that, with the right investment, we can build a sustainable future in that.

“It is about getting the focus back on the football and ensuring Premier League promotion with engaged, happy fans. We are long-term investors: there is no two- or three-year exit plan,” he added.

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