Page last updated at 13:22 GMT, Monday, 28 September 2009 14:22 UK

Saudis confirm Liverpool interest

Liverpool players
The move could boost Liverpool's profile in the Middle East

A Saudi Arabian prince has confirmed he is looking to buy up to half of Premier League football club Liverpool.

Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud told the Saudi Al-Riyadh newspaper "we are looking forward to acquiring 50% of the club's stake".

The price of £200m to £350m he is ready to pay for the stake is more than the £174m US owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett paid for the whole club.

A deal to open football schools in the Middle East has also been signed.

'Sports investments'

The prince's sports investment company F6 has confirmed it has reached a deal with Liverpool co-owner George Gillett to set up two academies in Saudi Arabia and two in North Africa.

The deal would also extend the interests of the US Nascar motorsport series in the Middle East.

"This partnership will provide a lot of investments in football, racing and sports media in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East," an F6 statement said.

"The contracts are basically sports investments, which also include establishing football academies that will definitely help the future of Saudi sports in the future."

Meanwhile the prince said it would be "marvellous" to seal a deal securing a 50% at the Merseyside club, which he called one of the most famous in the world.

'Concluded soon'

Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett have been looking to reduce Liverpool's £245m debt and paid off £60m in July.

That was when the loan used taken out to buy the club in February 2007 ran out and was renegotiated with banks RBS and Wachovia.

Considering what Hicks and Gillett paid it is a huge increase in the club's value
Harry Philp, Hermes Sports Partners

"The deal will be concluded soon and its value will be between £200m and £350m," the Al-Riyadh paper quoted the prince, who is also an honorary member of Saudi football club Al Hilal, as saying.

"If we finalise the deal, it will be something marvellous because Liverpool is one of the best and most famous clubs in England and the whole world."

The Saudi interest comes after a document was leaked showing that since March 2009 the club has been seeking to attract new investors in return for a stake in the Anfield club.

In March 2009, a prospectus drawn up by investment banks Rothschild and Merrill Lynch told potential investors that for £50m they could get a minority stake in "one of the world's most successful football clubs".

Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud, who was at Anfield on Saturday for the 6-1 win over Hull - where he signed the deal for the academies - now appears to be seeking to invest much more than £50m.

As well as the F6 sports investment vehicle he is also chairman of Saudi holding company FAMA Group

Stadium on hold

"Considering what Hicks and Gillett paid it is a huge increase in the club's value to somewhere between £400m and £700m," Harry Philp, managing director at sports financers and advisers Hermes Sports Partners, told the BBC.

"They had to refinance their debt with their banks recently. Despite paying off £60m of their debt recently as part of that refinancing it is still surprising, particularly considering that plans for a new stadium are on hold."

However, a number of questions remain over any possible investment, should the Saudis take a stake.

"The Saudis will have to take 25% of the club from each of Hicks and Gillett if they want half the club, but whether they both would be willing to sell any more of their holdings is unknown," added Mr Philp.

Mr Hicks has promised that a new stadium will be built when the current global financial turmoil settles down.

Liverpool recently signed a sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered bank, a sign that the club's commercial revenues are set to remain healthy over the coming seasons.

The deal begins next July and runs to the end of the 2013/14 season.

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