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Tuesday, October 27, 1998 Published at 11:58 GMT

Business: The Company File

BSkyB struggles to control Man Utd

The FA is worried about the impact on other clubs

Satellite broadcaster BSkyB has still not won control of the majority of Manchester United shares.

Many shareholders are thought to be awaiting the Office of Fair Trading's report on the proposed deal, before deciding whether to accept the bid.

BSkyB said it had received valid acceptances from shareholders representing 33.5% of the football club's shares.

[ image: Rupert Murdoch has his sights set on winning control of Man Utd]
Rupert Murdoch has his sights set on winning control of Man Utd
With the shares it has been buying directly from the company, the broadcaster owns just short of 45%.

For a takeover, BSkyB has to have more than 50% to gain a controlling stake in the club, at which point most other investors would sell their shares.

The broadcaster's £623m ($1.06bn) takeover bid for the club was launched in September was accepted by the Manchester United board.

However, the planned deal has sparked controversy as it would mean the TV company, which has the rights to live coverage of English soccer's premier league, would own the biggest club.

BSkyB faces opposition from some of the club's fans and it must still clear the government's regulatory hurdles.

Shareholders have until next Tuesday to decide whether to accept the offer, although BSkyB can extend the timetable until early December if it wishes.

Many shareholders are awaiting the outcome of a vital Office of Fair Trading (OFT) report into the monopoly implications of the deal, which is expected next Monday.

[ image: Trade and Industry Minister Peter Mandelson will have the last say]
Trade and Industry Minister Peter Mandelson will have the last say
If it recommends a further investigation from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, the offer would lapse automatically while the inquiry takes place.

If the OFT gives the deal the green light, BSkyB can extend the timetable for shareholders to early December if it has less than 50% of the stocks.

Last Friday, a spokesman for the Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson, who has the last say, denied that the minister was ready to endorse the deal. He said Mr Mandelson had not yet made his decision.

Earlier this month, the English Football Association said that it opposed the takeover.

"If the bid is allowed to go through it will create a situation where not only the strength of one club but also the influence of one club would extend far beyond the range of others," the FA said.

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