Qatar Holding, the investment arm of the Gulf state's sovereign wealth fund, has denied it is close to finalising a deal to buy Manchester United Football Club.
In a statement to the emirate’s state news agency, Qatar Holding CEO Mohamed Al Sayed said the wealth fund was not, and never had been, in talks to buy the Premier League club.
“There were no relevant negotiations, currently nor in the past, in this respect,” Ahmed Mohamed Al Sayed, Qatar Holding’s CEO, told the Qatar News Agency (QNA).
Media reports in the first quarter of the year appeared on an almost weekly basis linking Qatar Holdings with a bid for the club.
Manchester United, which is owned by the US-based Glazer family, in March announced a record $170m fiscal-year loss.
The Sunday Times this week reported the club is considering selling shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange after holding talks with several investment banks about a listing.
The Glazers, who also own the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, bought United for £790m in a leveraged buyout. Forbes estimates the team is now worth $1.8bn.
The club spends about £45m a year on its bonds, which mature in 2017. All of the debt is linked to the Glazer acquisition. The team was debt-free when it was run as a public limited company before the takeover. Still, its sales under the Americans have doubled to about £300m.
As well as a £500m secured against the team, the ownership also had a £220m payment-in-kind loan that accrued rolled-up interest of as much as 16.25 percent. The owners paid off the lenders, although neither the club nor the Glazers have said how the loan was repaid.
Two seasons ago United sold Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for a world record £80m. That helped boost its cash surplus to more than £100m. It has spent about £30m of that in the past two quarters by buying back some of its bonds.
Qatar Holding has acquired a number of trophy assets in recent months, including US-based film studio Miramax Films, London department store Harrods and a five percent stake in Banco Santander’s Brazilian unit.
The Gulf Arab state, the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, in December won the right to host the 2022 World Cup finals.