Often Partisan

Money, money, money

One thing with supporting a team like Birmingham City is that there is never a dull moment. Normally, during the international break there tends to be less news on the club front as football writers shift their focus to the national team’s failings, but for us Bluenoses there is more interesting stuff in the news than the current status of John Terry’s armband.

Peter Pannu yesterday called for supporters to get behind the team, after the club slipped into the relegation places this weekend. He’s right in that we need to give our passionate vocal backing to the players – after all, they need our support – but I was more intrigued with his proclamation that Carson Yeung has injected another four million quid into the club. He stated that it’s the first stage of an injection of funds into the club, and that there really isn’t much to worry about. However, it does seem a remarkable coincidence that four million quid is roughly the same amount as Carson would be looking to get from the first part of the mortgage on his house … which is to be paid in three stages. Whilst it’s clear the property that is being mortgaged is worth a whole lot more than he is securing on it, it’s a bit unnerving that this piece indicates Carson mortgaged another property back in November. I have no doubts that Carson is a rich man – but I don’t think he is cash rich, and for a football club that is bad news.

The Guardian reports that Birmingham City have raised just under £7million from a share issue, which can be confirmed by this circular (pdf link) released to the Stock Exchange yesterday. Again, it’s good news for the holding company because it’s an injection of £6.8million in cash – however, the much larger “best effort” placing (£23million) hasn’t been commented on by the holding company, and with the long stop date I believe to have expired yesterday it leaves the club with a major shortfall. It’s entirely possible that another circular will be released shortly with another extension to the long stop date for this placing, but bearing in mind that the fully underwritten placing took a month longer than planned I fear it’s going to be difficult to sell any more shares in the company. The share issue is still at a discount to the current price of shares, which is holding at 0.21HK$, but it seems Carson is struggling to attract further investors. There has been a new large shareholder come aboard; via his investment brokerage Astrum Capital businessman Pan Chik has bought a 305million shareholding (9.56%). Pan Chik is an independent non-exec director of one of Carson’s other ventures, SMI Publishing (which owns the Sing Pao newspaper amongst other things) so it would appear that there is already a connection between Mr Pan and Carson – in other words, it’s someone he knows that has put the cash in. For Carson to really succeed he needs to attract new investors that have no prior connection, as I cannot believe he has too many more connections to rely on.

A busy week in Hong Kong has been capped off for Carson by a high court adjournment for two months (Chinese link) to a 20mil HK$ (£1.66mil) case between Carson Yeung and businessman Weng Shibing, to allow the two parties to come to a mediated settlement. This case, which affects Carson’s Billion Wealth vehicle (which owns his shares in SMI Publishing) has been bubbling under the news for a couple of months. With Carson struggling for cashflow for BIH the last thing he needs right now is to have to fork out another wedge.

Does this mean Birmingham City are in financial trouble? My honest answer is “I don’t know”; it would appear that we are struggling for cash a little bit but on the other hand the share price is holding steady and the noises from inside the club still seem to be positive. The big worry is that relegation would really do some damage financially to the club, as I believe we’re set up for a Premiership existence at the moment. Without the money that continually comes in from Sky’s coffers, I predict we could struggle a bit more for cash, and we’d almost certainly have to move on a few players if the worst did happen. This is true for many teams though – and for my mind shows why teams are more desperate not to lose and concede points in their bids to remain Premiership teams.

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