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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 September, 2003, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Man Utd plays down bid report
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Manchester United has played down a press report that three foreign billionaires may launch bids to buy the club.

The Observer newspaper reported that three wealthy potential buyers had separately sounded out City advisors over whether a takeover bid would be successful.

The would-be buyers have not been identified, but are thought to include a Russian, a European, and a businessman of Middle Eastern origin.

They have been advised that the Premiership club would cost about 600m ($960m), and that most of its existing shareholders would be willing to sell at the right price.

They have also been told that Manchester United - already among the most financially successful club in the English game - could become even more profitable, the Observer reported.

Overseas ownership

But Manchester United said it had had no contact with any potential buyer.

"We have had no approaches and the story is pure speculation," a Manchester United spokesman told BBC Sport.

The Observer report comes two months after the surprise 150m takeover of Manchester United's Premiership rivals Chelsea by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

According to the Observer, each of the three potential bidders for Manchester United is said to be as rich as Mr Abramovich, who amassed a fortune of up to 3.8bn through investments in oil, airlines, and aluminium.

Speculation that Manchester United could become a takeover target has been brewing since a separate group of wealthy investors began building up stakes in the club earlier this year.

Manchester United's global profile, boosted by its consistently strong performance on the pitch and its roster of star players, is higher than any other football club's.

But with profits of 32m on revenues of 146m in its most recent financial year, the club is ranked as a medium-sized listed firm.

Manchester United shares closed 0.25p higher at 168p on Friday, up from about 105p at the beginning of the year.

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