INTERNATIONAL - The unbeaten run of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s early days as Manchester United Plc’s interim manager may seem like a distant memory for some fans, but analysts at Jefferies say shareholders should keep the faith.
The 46-year-old “can bring the team back to championship caliber play,” the broker that led the soccer club’s 2012 initial public offering said in a note to clients Wednesday, reiterating its buy rating after hosting management in the U.S.
The club cited growing momentum in China during the meeting, ahead of the opening of new interactive centers in the country next year, analysts including Randal J. Konik wrote. “Surprisingly,” management also noted growth in the the Middle East and Africa, they added, “which should only help boost top-line performance.”
Solskjaer, a favorite among fans during his time as a player for the club in the 1990s and 2000s, won 14 of his first 19 games as interim coach after Jose Mourinho was sacked last year. The team was unable to continue its momentum after he was given the role on a permanent basis, however, and finished sixth in the Premier League to miss out on a place in the lucrative UEFA Champions League next season.
But “the ManU story remains unchanged,” according to Jefferies, which resumed coverage in December after a near four-year hiatus. It’s a “global brand with unparalleled reach in a world where live content is receiving a premium given its unpredictable outcome,” the analysts added in Wednesday’s note.
Man United’s shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange, have fallen 18% in the past year. The bank’s $26 a share price target suggests 46% upside.