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Man United makes flat debut as IPO disappoints

Shares in Manchester United were flat in their U.S. market debut Friday, the world's most famous soccer club and most valuable sporting team having priced its IPO below expectations.

Manchester United sold 16.7 million shares as planned, but at a price of $14 each, below the expected range of $16 to $20.

The offering valued the 19-times English champions at $2.3 billion but shaved as much as $100 million off the proceeds that had been expected for the team and its owners.

Unknown to most Americans but a household name in most of the world, the club listed on a U.S. exchange after pulling a planned IPO in Singapore earlier this year.

Manchester United went public in the U.K. in 1991. The American Glazer family, which owns the team, acquired control of Man United in 2005 through a leveraged takeover valued at $1.5 billion. 

There are some positives for the IPO.

Man United notes it has won 60 trophies in its 134-year history, and boasts a global fan base of 659 million followers that it says it is in the early stages of monetizing. Over 5 million items of Manchester United branded licensed products were sold in the last year, including over 2 million Manchester United jerseys, the team notes in a regulatory filing. This year General Motors signed a $559 million sponsorship deal with the team.

But despite the team’s popularity, sports franchises generally don’t do well with investors, according to David Menlow, president of the research firm IPOfinancial.com.

“There have been a number of them over the years, and the interest in them tends to wane,” he said. “What happens if the team has a mediocre season?”

Reuters contributed to this report.

Click here to check Manchester United’s share price.