In an unprecedented turn of events, two Arsenal shares were traded yesterday for £27,500 – the previous record price was £21,500 set a month ago on September 6.
Since March the record price has been broken six times and risen from £17,750 to £27,500, a rise of 55 per cent.
What is going on? Quite simply, speculation. Arsenal have two billionaire shareholders (and about 600 other shareholders). Stan Kroenke owns 41,721 shares (67.05%) and Alisher Usmanov owns 18,695 shares (30.04%). In May, Usmanov made an offer for Kroenke’s shares, believed to be at a price of around £22,000 per share. The offer was rebuffed, but the news lifted the price on the open market to over £20,000 for the first time.
Last week it was rumoured – only rumoured, mind; neither party has confirmed it – that Stan Kroenke had made an offer for Alisher Usmanov’s shares, and the offer price was said to be £28,000 a share. The market took notice, and the price being quoted on the NEX Exchange rose to £26,500, though no share had been traded for anywhere near that amount – until yesterday.
Clearly the logic here is that if either of the major shareholders thinks that shares are worth paying £28,000 for, then the market price should be around that level. And if the offer was turned down, then one billionaire thinks that Arsenal shares must be worth even more, otherwise the sensible thing to do would be to accept. This assumes, of course that there actually was an offer, which as I said neither party has confirmed. (Post your evidence to the usual address.)
There are still around 600 small shareholders, so although the volume of shares traded has dropped considerably since the rival billionaires hoovered up 97 per cent of the total, there are still enough holders that some get traded. Many sales are from people who have two, three or four shares and want to retain some shareholding, but also cash in on the fact their shares are now deemed worth several times what they paid, or perhaps even hundreds of times. The buyers are either fanatical Arsenal supporters with a lot of spare cash who really don’t care how much it costs them to own a tiny piece of Arsenal, or – more likely – they’re speculators who believe that sometime soon one of the billionaires will accept the other’s offer, and then the remaining three per cent of the shares will be compulsorily purchased and give them a quick profit. I think the speculators are probably wrong and the stalemate between Kroenke and Usmanov could continue for quite a while. Neither wants to be ‘beaten’ by the other and neither has a need to sell. We’ll see.
If nothing happens and rumours subside then the price may well drop back nearer to £20,000 for a while. A similar drop happened between 2013 and 2016 once the big two had stopped buying – no record price was set between 2012 and 2017.
What does all this mean for Arsenal? To be honest, not much at present. As long as Kroenke is in charge it matters little what the share price is. It won’t affect how the team plays, and it won’t persuade him to put any of his own money in to the club. All it does is reduce the number of people who can realistically think about making a bid. There is a consortium of businessmen who have been interested in taking over and saving the rest of us from Kroenke for some time. The price they’d now need to pay to buy out Kroenke at a 20 per cent premium to the prevailing rate has gone up from about £850m at the start of the year to about £1.3bn now. And they didn’t have £850m. It almost looks like a cunning plan by Kroenke to put people off so they don’t hassle him…
At the new record price for an Arsenal share of £27,500, the club is notionally valued at just over £1.7bn. This is the first time the value calculated from the share price has gone above the value in Forbes so-called ‘football rich list’, where Arsenal was valued at £1.5bn in June. Not that it’s important. Forbes valuations are about as useful as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Additional info, 11 October 2017: today one share was sold for £28,000, another new record.
Here’s how the maximum Arsenal share price has risen since 2007: