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Shares are selling but will players have to be sold as well . . . ?

The Rangers International Football Club plc share price has been falling steadily since the annual meeting of shareholders last December.

Emilson has barely played, but is adamant he will stay until summer. Picture: SNS
Emilson has barely played, but is adamant he will stay until summer. Picture: SNS

Yesterday, 2.5m shares were sold at 24p, a new low (the launch price was 70p), with a further 250,000 sold at 25p, the largest single day trading volume in more than a month.

At the same time as the share price has been falling, the chief executive Graham Wallace has been conducting a review of the business, with significant cuts expected to be implemented to bring costs in line with income. Here Herald Sport looks at the state of play at Rangers.

Who sold and who bought the shares?

We may not find out, at least for now. The shares were sold in batches of 1m and 250,000, so it could have been multiple sellers and, in theory, multiple buyers. Anybody who takes their holding above or below 3% needs to notify that fact, but it can take several days to be posted on the Stock Exchange. In total, the five transactions accounted for around 4% of the RIFC shareholding.

So what is the significance of the recent share price drop?

For investors, it means that they have been losing money, unless they were among the small number to receive 1p shares. Until yesterday, the volume of shares sold was small, suggesting that the price was falling because investors were looking to sell their stock but there were no buyers. The share price rebounded to 28.5p at the close of the market, but it is widely thought that the net asset value share price is around 25p, making that a significant value for the market price to dip below.

Might a takeover be imminent?

That is unlikely. The arrival of a buyer on the scene would push the share price back up. Investors would need to be willing to sell their holdings, although those who voted against the re-election of the board members last month - around 30% - may be less inclined to retain their shares. Private deals can be struck, of course, but Rangers' business model needs to be streamlined so any price would be discounted to take into account the need for further investment.

What is the state of the club's finances?

Wallace, by his own admission, needs to cut the costbase. Rangers are thought to be losing somewhere in the region of £1m per month, and Wallace is currently conducting a review of the entire business. He stresses that this will also identify areas requiring investment, but it is clear that cuts will need to be implemented first. The club expects to have around £1m cash left by April, but there are issues to address.

Such as?

It is not so simple as just identifying, for example, players who are peripheral to the team and telling them to find a new club. Emilson Cribari has barely played this season, but is believed to be content in Glasgow and adamant that he will stay until the summer. If he cannot match the wages he is on, there is also no incentive for him to leave.

What about selling players?

There are some who would attract bids from other clubs, but Lee Wallace, for one, is also adamant that he intends to remain at Rangers and has no interest in pursuing a career in England. David Templeton has not featured much this season, but would need to find a club willing to match the wages he is on at Ibrox.

So how does Wallace reduce the costs?

He might seek redundancies, although they would also require severance packages. Hard decisions may be made, but there are costs that can be cut on the business side.

Is there no alternative?

No. Rangers intend to seek fresh investment, but the business needs to be brought to an even keel first. A share issue is possible in time, and Dave King is ready to lead that fresh round of investment, but Wallace will not begin that process before he has redeveloped the business model. By then, he will also have identified the areas - such as scouting - that require investment.

If costs are being cut, why is Philip Nash, a consultant, being brought in?

Given that Wallace is a chartered accountant, that Andrew Dickson, the head of football administration, is a chartered accountant, and that Rangers have a financial director in Brian Stockbridge, a finance controller in Ken Olverman, and an accountancy firm in Active Corporate, another accountant seems superfluous. Nash was finance director at Arsenal and Liverpool, so knows the business of football, and it is conceivable that his remit is to source new revenue as much as contribute to the business review, but it may be Wallace wants fresh and independent analysis.

So what happens next?

More uncertainty, probably, with the share price and with events inside the club. While the transfer window is open, players can be sold or moved on, while other areas of the business will also be cut. Wallace faces a difficult task to balance the books without fundamentally affecting the ability of the team to continue progressing up the leagues.

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