As the world’s foremost blog and/or internet site on Arsenal ownership and share dealings, it is my duty to write yet another post telling you of a new record price for Arsenal shares. It seems like only last week I wrote the last one (though actually it was April).
On Monday July 17th two Arsenal shares were traded for £19,300 each – beating the previous record of £18,250 set on April 13th. The April record had only stood since March 27th, when two shares sold for £17,750 each, but that was the first new high since way back in September 2012.
This was dramatic enough, but only half an hour later (according to the timings of the trades reported on the NEX Exchange website) four more shares were traded for £21,000 each! A jump of this size in the highest price is unprecedented. Oddly the group of four shares traded late on Monday was not reported immediately on the NEX website – in fact it didn’t appear until at least Wednesday. This has happened before and may well be because the broker involved has been slow to pass the information on. Either way it’s there now.
So why the sudden surge in the price? The average price for Arsenal shares traded in the year to March 2017 was just under £15,900. Is Arsenal really worth 25 per cent more now than it was in the spring? Since then the club has failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time this century, thus giving up somewhere in the region of £30m to £40m in income for next season. No new TV deals have been announced, Puma have not paid £200m for Arsene to sport some shockingly bright trainers and the FA have not declared that everyone else will start next season with a 20-point penalty.
What has happened is that news leaked out in May of a bid by minority owner Alisher Usmanov for Stan Kroenke’s 67 per cent of the club. It wasn’t even a formal bid, more along the lines of: ‘What would you say if I offered you this much?’ The figure involved was said to be around £22,000 per share, and was of course turned down. Kroenke then issued a statement saying he had no intention of selling. Usmanov has remained quiet – even the leaking of the original offer did not apparently come from him.
However, despite nothing concrete happening this has been enough to drive the share price higher. If Usmanov thinks a share is worth at least £22,000 and Kroenke clearly thinks they’re worth more because he won’t sell for that price, then why should anyone else take less when selling? It’s harder for an owner of only one or two shares to insist on the top price, because although there are few sellers, there aren’t all that many buyers either, and a prospective buyer of a single share can wait for the next seller if he’s not happy. So I wouldn’t expect the price for the few shares being traded by the remaining small shareholders to hit the same levels as offers made by bigger investors, but it will be in the same ballpark.
Will the price go higher still? I’m inclined to think it may if speculators believe further bids are possible. Even if Kroenke won’t sell to Usmanov, Usmanov may sell to Kroenke, or a third party might make a bid for the shares of either or both. It’s possibly also worth noting that the likes of Forbes always value Arsenal substantially higher than the share price indicates the club is worth – though so far the market has taken zero notice of such valuations.
A final point to note: at a price of £21,000 per share, Stan Kroenke would more than double his money if he sold his stake: by my calculation the average price he’s paid for his shares is around £10,160. His shares have cost him around £424m and selling at £21,000 a share would give him £876m. That fact is not likely to convince him to sell, though.