January 21, 2007 / 12:24 PM / 13 years ago

French soccer club Olympique Lyonnais heads to IPO

PARIS, Jan 10 (Reuters) - French champion soccer club Olympique Lyonnais is setting up for a stock-market listing aimed at competing financially with richer European rivals such as Manchester United and Chelsea to buy star plauers.

Olympique Lyonnais officials remained tight-lipped on Wednesday on speculation that the listing could take place next month, after the club filed a reference documemt with the AMF French financial markets watchdog late on Tuesday.

Olympique Lyonnais have dominated France’s soccer scene in recent years, winning the last five championships in a row.

It will be the first club do float after France earlier this year amended a law preventing professional sports clubs from listing on the stock market.

Its chairman and main shareholder, Jean-Michel Aulas, who led the campaign for the regulations to be eased, gave a few clues on the listing in a recent interview with bi-weekly magazine France Football, however.

The highlights of that interview were published on the club’s Web site.

Aulas said that the listing “will happen before our return game in the Champions League against Roma (March 6, 2007).”

He also said that he was hoping to raise around 100 million euros in net funds through the listing and that part of the funds would notably be used to build a stadium with a crowd capacity of 60,000.

Under the new French law, soccer clubs are allowed to list if they can show a strong balance sheet and business plan and would have to be in a position to afford a modern stadium.

The club, chasing a sixth title at the top of the French first division this season, boasts high-profile players such as French international goalkeeper Gregory Coupet and Brazilian midfielder Juninho.

REFERENCE DOCUMENT

The reference document showed that Olympique Lyonnais generated revenue of 127.7 million euros, up 39 percent (excluding income from player transfers) for the 2005/06 fiscal year ended June 30.

Including this income revenue was 166.1 million euros.

Income from current operations rose 38 percent to 24.4 million while net profit grew 37 percent to 15.9 million.

The document also stated that the main risk to profitability was the club’s dependency on sporting success with 43.1 percent of its revenue coming from broadcasting rights.

The group is however trying to increase revenue from diversification, notably merchandising and catering. The two largest shareholders of Olympique Lyonnais are Aulas with 50.01 percent, through holding company ICMI, and media group Groupe Pathe with a 33.34-percent stake.

Aulas, an entrepreneur from the information technology sector, wants to retain control over more than one-third of the voting rights after the IPO, the document said.

Many soccer clubs from other major European leagues have been listed on the stock market for years, with differing fortunes.

In the last few years, Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively the second and fifth wealthiest European clubs, have delisted.

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