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Two IPOs place Tampa Bay in rare market spotlight

Tampa Bay finds itself in unfamiliar territory in the world of IPOs.

Two high-profile initial public offerings of area-related businesses seek to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from investors in the stock markets.

Tampa's Bloomin' Brands, the newly named parent company of well-known restaurant chains that include Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill, at long last is scheduled to raise some $300 million Wednesday in a public stock offering. Its new trading ticker will be BLMN.

The restaurant firm, publicly traded until it was taken private in 2006, is controlled by Bain Capital. That's the same private equity firm once run by Mitt Romney, who's coming to Tampa this month for the Republican National Convention.

Also expected to take the plunge into the stock market this Friday is Manchester United, the English soccer team and, by most measures, the most valuable sports franchise in the world. It's owned by the same Malcolm Glazer family that controls the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Glazers seek to raise $333 million. That's about 10 percent of Manchester United's value.

An updated July 30 prospectus says the Glazers will take about half of the IPO proceeds rather than using all the funds to pay down the team's large debt, a sore point with Man U fans. The Glazer family purchased Manchester United in 2005 for $1.47 billion, less than half of the franchise's current value. The prospectus claims the soccer team is "supported" by 659 million followers — more than twice the number of today's entire U.S. population — and is the "favorite" team of 277 million of those followers.

Its shares are expected to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange this Friday under the ticker symbol MANU. It will be the first sports franchise to go public in this country since the Cleveland Indians in 1998. The Glazers originally planned to take Manchester United public on Hong Kong's stock market.

Combined, the Bloomin' Brands and Manchester United offerings, plus four other scheduled deals, will make this the biggest IPO week since Facebook went public in May. That deal was marred by technical and management blunders at the Nasdaq, which contributed to Facebook's poor reception. The stock price has dropped to about $22 on Monday from its opening day price of $38.

Hopefully, this week's offerings will not face similar woes.

Six years ago, the publicly traded parent of Outback saw flagging restaurant sales. That's when it opted to escape a punishing stock market by taking the company private.

At the time, OSI operated Outback, Carrabba's, Bonefish, Roy's and Fleming's (as it does now), but also ran Cheeseburger in Paradise and Lee Roy Selmon's (both since sold off), and Blue Coral Seafood & Spirits (now closed).

Now the timing for Bloomin' Brands and Manchester United seems more promising. After some dismal years of performance, the Outback folks are on a comeback with stronger sales and better management. And some analysts say the Glazers are smart to tap Man U's inflated value soon — before its frenzied fans lose further patience with an owner perceived as more of a taker than a giver.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@tampabay.com.

Two IPOs place Tampa Bay in rare market spotlight 08/06/12 [Last modified: Monday, August 6, 2012 8:01pm]
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