Carson Yeung

Ex-star to run Birmingham buyer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am


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Former Liverpool and Real Madrid star Steve McManaman has been appointed executive director of Grandtop International, the buyer of English Premier League club Birmingham City.

Shares of the clothing firm, controlled by Carson Yeung Ka-shing, jumped as much as 24 per cent to HK$2.05 yesterday after trading resumed following the announcement that it had secured the rights to acquire a major stake in the club. But the stock ended the day 3.6 per cent down at HK$1.59 on worries that money for the deal will be raised through a share issue.

Grandtop has agreed to buy a 29.9 per cent stake in Birmingham City for #14.95 million (HK$233.3 million), or about 20 times its earnings, according to a company statement to the stock exchange yesterday.

Mr McManaman, 35, who was believed to have been acting for Mr Yeung in securing the deal, discussed his appointment at a media briefing in Hong Kong yesterday.

'They know my expertise in sport in England, and in particular in football,' he said. 'I know a lot of people in the sport, and I have a lot of contacts. I will help out and give ideas as a friend, as the people involved in the company are very good friends of mine, and hopefully we can have an exciting time in the future.'

Two weeks ago, Mr Yeung paid HK$65 million, or 57 Hong Kong cents a share, for a 16.67 per cent stake in Grandtop, whose share price jumped 123 per cent in anticipation of the Birmingham takeover.

Market analysts say Mr Yeung will need to raise fresh capital for the acquisition before the season begins.

'Birmingham is a more interesting name than Grandtop,' said a broker, who asked not to be named because his firm may be associated with Grandtop's potential capital-raising exercise. 'What I think would happen is, they will use Birmingham to raise some cash.'

Last week, Grandtop announced it had agreed to pay 61.33 pence a share - a 36 per cent premium to the 45 pence at which Birmingham City's shares were trading before the deal - to the five major shareholders for a major stake.

Mr Yeung has agreed to provide up to HK$250 million interest-free and a security bridging loan for Grandtop for six months.

Grandtop saw the Birmingham deal as a good opportunity to diversify. It is considering supplying and sourcing club apparel, accessories and related products.