Singapore approves $2.5 bn F1 float

Formula One has been given the go-ahead for a $2.5 billion share sale in Singapore, a source close to the deal told AFP Tuesday, but analysts said conditions may not be ideal after Facebook's recent disappointment.

Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, which has a majority stake in the glitzy motor sport's holding company, will gauge interest among investors and fund managers with a view to selling part of its stake at the end of June.

The source said the Singapore Exchange had approved a listing by Formula One, which has been rumoured for the past two months.

A spokesman for the bourse, citing standard policy, said: "It is not our practice to publicly comment on our dealings with listing aspirants."

Singapore hosts a popular Formula One night race, one of 20 stops on the F1 tour this year, and has a strong fanbase for the sport. This year's Singapore Grand Prix is scheduled for September 23.

An F1 initial public offering (IPO) would likely translate into a profit for CVC Capital Partners, which owns 63.4 percent of F1's business after it bought a majority stake in the racing company for $2.5 billion in 2006.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone who, the source said, owns 5.3 percent of the business, could gain financially if the stocks rise, but one analyst said the IPO would dilute some of his powers.

"It doesn't really matter to him (Ecclestone) directly if it is listed in Singapore or elsewhere," said Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets Singapore.

"The IPO will see him lose power somewhat, he may become a less dominant head of the sport," Hughes told AFP.

The listing would be the biggest IPO this year in Singapore, which also approved a float by Manchester United in September.

However the English Premier League football club, which has a massive Asian following, is said to be awaiting better market conditions.

Some companies are looking at Asia's cash-rich markets to raise funds as Europe grapples with a debt crisis and the United States pursues a fragile recovery.

Dow Jones Newswires said order-taking international roadshows would begin in the second week of June.

But the suggested timing of the IPO is considered brave after turbulence returned to global financial markets last week amid renewed fears over the eurozone.

News of the F1 offering, which could raise as much as $3 billion, follows Friday's float of Facebook on Wall Street, which valued the web giant at $104 billion, but saw its shares plunge 11.0 percent Monday.

"We have to look at how Facebook has performed. It fell heavily after a couple of days of trading and there is no reason to believe that Formula One will be immune to such a reaction," Hughes said.

Reports of a possible F1 float broke in March and received a cool reaction from some team bosses.

Five Formula One team principals said they wouldn't buy Formula One shares, painting a bleak picture of team finances despite high profits reportedly enjoyed by the governing body.

Among them McLaren said some teams among the 12 racing this season were battling to stave off extinction, while Ferrari called it a "critical" time for many of the Europe-based teams.

But Caterham team boss Tony Fernandes, the man behind successful budget airline AirAsia, backed the plan, spearheaded by Ecclestone.

"As a businessman I think if public money can improve the sport, and accountability and transparency, then we should go for it," Fernandes told AFP in March.

Hughes, the analyst, noted there is no fixed date yet for the IPO.

"With these current market conditions, there is potential that it could well be pushed back," he said.

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