By Sophie Penney
LONDON (Reuters) -Recent investment in soccer has set the bar for the value of elite clubs and led to the sport becoming "big, big business", finance expert Neil Joyce told Reuters on Friday, ahead of the expiration of a deadline for bids to buy into Manchester United.
United's owners, the American Glazer family, began looking at new investment or a potential sale last year, with British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe's company INEOS entering the bidding process, while investors from Qatar and Saudi Arabia have also been linked with a takeover.
United are set to receive multiple offers ahead of the initial deadline for bids expiring later on Friday, kicking off potentially the largest sports deal ever.
U.S.-listed shares of United rose nearly 5% premarket to $28.10 on Friday, a day after closing at a record high.
"Football is big, big business from an investment standpoint," said Joyce, CEO & co-founder of CLV Group.
"With all the investment that's come into the Premier League ... the likes of (Saudi Arabia's) PIF (Public Investment Fund) acquiring Newcastle United, Todd Boehly and his consortium buying Chelsea, they kind of set the threshold of what football clubs are worth.
"The bar's been set in terms of the value of sports teams and football teams in particular as brands."
The Glazers bought United for 790 million pounds ($947 million) in 2005, and Joyce said there was plenty of financial incentive for them to sell the club.
"If you look at it from an investment perspective, purely on this side of things, traditionally, private equity companies invest into businesses with the belief that they can generate anywhere between two to four times return on capital," Joyce said.
"If you look at what United is likely to be sold for, the Glazers are likely to generate anywhere between six to eight times return on their initial capital, even allowing for the interest payments, dividends and other shareholders involved there."
United's valuation as a public company peaked at $4.3 billion in 2018.
Joyce said he expected United to be sold for at least five billion pounds ($6.00 billion), adding that new owners could capitalise on the club's global fanbase to increase commercial revenue by 250 million pounds and add $1-2 billion to the actual valuation.
"From the report that we (CLV Group) have just finished writing and publishing, we've seen 87 million pounds (in added revenue) and that's restricted just to the U.S. and the European markets for United.
"We've looked at India and Indonesia as well where there's at least 100 million pounds plus. You then look at factoring in the Middle East, which is greatly untapped but is becoming very emerging with the likes of (Cristiano) Ronaldo going there.
"There's huge monetary opportunities across multiple markets.
"The key to all of this though is understanding fans and the fact that a fan in the United States wants a very different proposition to the fan that goes to Old Trafford, versus the fan that lives in Dubai for instance," he added.
($1 = 0.8335 pounds)
(Writing by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)