Deal or no deal? Leeds United saga goes into extra time

ZURICH/LONDON Fri Nov 16, 2012 9:18pm IST

ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) - Leeds United supporters are anxious for a conclusion to protracted takeover talks after the latest statement on Friday that a deal to buy the second tier club was close.

Dubai-based GFH Capital said it had formally agreed an extension of the period for exclusive negotiations to buy the club whose majority shareholder is former Chelsea owner Ken Bates.

"The fact that we are in such advanced talks means this extended exclusivity window is merely to ensure we can get past the final post without distraction," said GFH Capital deputy Chief Executive David Haigh.

"We have come so far and are looking forward to what we hope will be a positive statement about change in ownership of Leeds United shortly."

The relevant agreements are being processed by the respective legal teams and information supplied to the Football League as required under their regulations, the GFH statement said.

Leeds fans were perplexed by the further extension after the club disclosed as far back as May that it was in talks with potential investors.

"This (announcement) doesn't make any sense. Why didn't they put a fit and proper person request months ago? The Football League says that is the only test a new owner would have to pass," said Gary Cooper, chairman of the Leeds United Supporters Trust.

"The supporters deserve much better than this," he added. The Trust represents around 8,000 fans and has clashed with Bates in the past.

Foreign investors are increasingly looking at larger Championship (second division) clubs, hopeful of them winning a place in the big money Premier League.

Leeds have won the English league title three times, most recently in 1992. However, the current team is without a win in six league games and have slipped to 18th place in the 24-team Championship.

Fans hope that new owners will be in place in time to fund signings in the January transfer window to allow the team to make a late push for a promotion place.

Bahrain-based GFH, which owns GFH Capital, is in a tight financial position.

The Bank's most recent financial statement, filed earlier in November, says GFH made a profit of $7.5 million for the nine months ended September 30.

But the cash flow statement shows that losses from operating activities were $14 million, and that the bank only achieved a profit by selling $26 million of treasury shares and netting $56 million from a convertible Islamic finance instrument.

Auditor KPMG flags a note in the statement footnotes which includes the caveat that the group's accumulated losses stand at $294 million and that current contractual obligations exceed its liquid assets.

(Editing by Alison Wildey)

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