It’s a question I have been asked with more frequency as the deadline approaches and with that in mind I thought I would put together this article to try to explain why the two year anniversary – and indeed a change of ownership will make very little difference to the way we see Blues.
What exactly does Paul Suen own and what would he sell?
I think the first place to start with this is to explain the ownership structure of Birmingham City FC.
Blues are owned by a UK-based parent company Birmingham City PLC, which in turn is 96.58% owned by Birmingham Sports Holdings.
BSH is a publicly-listed company on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, whose largest shareholder currently is Trillion Trophy Asia, who own 34.86%.
TTA in turn is a company that is wholly owned by Paul Suen.
My understanding, which was backed up by what I heard from sources when I was last in Hong Kong is that Paul Suen would not sell BCFC off but would either sell his stake in BSH or more likely sell TTA.
This would mean that Birmingham City FC would remain in the hands of BSH once the transfer of ownership is complete.
Is he going to sell next month?
The short answer to this question is no.
The answer lies in the conditions that were placed upon Paul Suen by the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong when trading in shares of BSH was unsuspended.
It’s been fairly well known that Suen was not allowed to sell his stake for two years.
However, there were other conditions too, which I understand have not yet been fully met.
The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong want to be sure that BSH is a viable company once Suen sold it on, and so have told Suen he cannot sell his stake until there is another source of revenue to the company that isn’t BCFC.
In November 2017, BSH confirmed a deal to purchase and develop land in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, selling equity in the company to do so to a vehicle called Graticity Real Estate Development (GRED).
At the moment, my understanding is that the level of income from this deal is not sufficient for Suen to sell BSH on, and that situation will continue until May 2019 at least.
BSH announced to the HKSE on August 28 that they had done a further deal with GRED to build upon their original deal. I believe this announcement was to help convince the HKSE that income from this deal will be forthcoming.
The accounts for the year ending June 30 2018 are due to be published by the end of this month and those will give us a clearer idea of how much money BSH is making from the Cambodian deal.
So what does this mean for Blues?
The truth is, it doesn’t mean anything – because even though Suen is the titular owner of BCFC he’s not been the person putting money into the company for some time.
Likewise, the main players in running the club right now – CEO Ren Xuandong, Directors Edward Zheng Gannan and Shayne Wang Yao, along with BSH Chairman Zhao Wenqing – are all people put in place by the regime to come.
Effectively, that means regardless of when the actual transfer of shares in BSH or indeed TTA happens, the same people will be running the club as has been for the last year or so.