By Saeed Azhar
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - English Premier League soccer champions Manchester United have filed a preliminary application with the Singapore Exchange for a planned listing, a source with direct knowledge of the deal said on Thursday.
The club, which sources have said hopes to raise as much as $1 billion from an initial public offering (IPO) by the end of the year, has appointed Credit Suisse as the global coordinator of the deal, the source said.
A second source said the owning Glazer family plan to use some of the funds raised from the offering to reduce the club's huge debt pile, a burden which has made the Americans deeply unpopular with many fans.
United's 2010 full-year results showed gross debt attached to the club of 522 million pounds ($865 million), with a net loss of 84 million pounds.
The Glazers have been criticized by supporters who are uncomfortable with the club's debt, despite continued on-field success, inspiring slogans such as "Love United, Hate Glazer" brandished by some supporters.
"The proceeds will be used to pay down debt in the business and further grow its Asia business," a source familiar with the deal told Reuters.
As with many other English soccer teams, Asia has become an important growth area for United and is home to more than 190 million of its estimated 333 million fans.
Listing in Singapore could provide a further boost to the development of the club's Asian fan base and marketing potential in the region, said Chris Searle, Corporate Finance Partner at accountants BDO.
This would be a second stock market incarnation for the club, which was listed in London before being taken over by the Glazers in 2005.
More bookrunners are expected to be appointed shortly, with
Morgan Stanley and UBS also in the running, sources have said.
The Singapore Exchange and Manchester United were not available to comment.
(Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Neil Maidment and Matt Scuffham in London; Editing by Dan Lalor and Hans-Juergen Peters)