BCFC: Financial Reassurance

It’s a bipolar existence being a Birmingham City fan sometimes. On the pitch things look much improved and on Saturday the team scored five goals in the league for the first time in nearly six years in a thumping 5-0 win over Luton. Off the pitch, the rumour mill is in overdrive with whispers of financial meltdown doing the rounds in a vacuum of information.

Birmingham City Accounts

It’s not hard to understand why some fans think that administration is inevitable at the club. We only have to look at the foofaraw around the Tilton and Kop stand repairs to see why people might think the money has run out.

I’ll admit it confuses me that the repairs have seemingly overrun so much; eight months since the initial announcement of the inspection failures seems to be enough time to at least repair the upper sections – especially considering it was August before fans were back in the stadium.

And yet, things roll on as normal at St Andrew’s – or as normal as things get in B9 at any rate.

I have said on social media recently that I believe Administration is very unlikely.

Back in February 2021 I wrote about the mechanism of Administration and said that the HK listing was the one thing that I thought would protect the club from Administration.

Nothing has happened since to make me change my opinion from that.

One of the things that makes all this hard to understand is the lack of transparency of who actually owns the club; who is putting the money in, where they are getting it from and what their motives are.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently trying to work out just what is going on.

Although it’s convoluted, the largest shareholder in the club currently is Chinese-Cambodian businessman Vong Pech.

We have heard nary a word from Vong since he bought a direct 21.64% stake in the club along with 25% of the stadium company via Oriental Rainbow Investments.

Despite being listed as the owner of a multitude of Cambodian companies, it’s very difficult to understand exactly what Vong actually does. Cambodia is not a country known for its free and open press, which when added to the privacy that owning things via a British Virgin Islands company affords makes it nigh on impossible to get any reliable information.

The largest shareholder in Birmingham Sports Holdings is Paul Suen Cho Hung, who owns Trillion Trophy Asia.

Suen is at least somewhat visible. In recent weeks, Suen has bought an office block in London from another HK listed company for a cash consideration of HK$235M – just shy of £22M.

However, the evidence from the BSH accounts would indicate that Suen isn’t putting any money into the company and hasn’t for some time. While Suen has an outstanding loan owed by BSH, the value owed hasn’t changed for over two years and is just sat racking up interest.

The source of money into BSH in recent years has all been loans from various third party companies – all of which seem to have a connection to a Chinese businessman named Wang Yaohui; aka the elusive Mr King.

Mr King is probably the hardest to understand of them all, as his connection to the club is completely unofficial and unrecognised by the authorities. His name does not appear on transactions, leaving sticky beaks like me to try to put together the picture from the small traces from online sources and contacts.

What that means in turn is it’s very difficult to understand his current financial situation.

There have been rumours from the Far East that maybe the money is drying up for Mr King; yet in the last few days I’ve found evidence that connects him to the purchase of a property in London for in excess of £6M. That extends his property portfolio in London alone that I know of to four properties, with a combined value north of £50M.

Add that to at least one other property in England and investments in Cambodia and China that I know about and God only knows what I don’t, and it wouldn’t be hard to see Mr King as a very rich man.

However, none of these investments are in his own name – and that coupled with a past of bribery and potential money laundering means those riches could be fleeting. Just ask Carson Yeung.

As much of a sticky-beak I am, I think I have to accept that I’m never going to get a true picture of exactly where the club is financially.

I think we’ll see a statement soon enough about the stadium which I hope will alleviate some of the worst fears out there.

However, I also think it’s important that the board try to give some kind of reassurance to the fans of the club’s finances. I’ll readily accept that it would need to be vague to comply with HKSE rules – but it would be nice to be told at least that things are okay.