Former Manchester United stars turned property developers plan hotels expansion in Asia

The former Manchester United football stars Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, who have teamed up with Singapore billionaire Peter Lim on property developments in Manchester, are seeking to bring their football-themed hotels and cafes to Asia.

Giggs and Neville are in talks with potential partners to expand in China, Thailand, India, Singapore and Malaysia, the pair said in Singapore. Some developments will house a hotel and cafe, while others will only be a cafe, Neville said.

“We’ve had fantastic reviews in Manchester, and we are looking for a UK, Europe and Asian expansion over the next 12 to 18 months to add multiple properties,” said Neville, who played 602 games for United. The first football-themed cafe in Asia will open in Singapore in 2017, he said.

Giggs played a record 963 games during a 24-year career at United, winning 13 Premier League titles and scoring 168 goals. He was an assistant under the manager Louis van Gaal, but in July quit the club he joined as a 14-year-old after Jose Mourinho was appointed to the top job.

Mr Lim’s Rowsley, a Singapore-listed property developer, Giggs and Neville have also partnered the Manchester-based National Football Museum, where they will open the third Cafe Football later this year. The first cafe opened in London in 2013, followed by a second near United’s home ground Old Trafford.

The trio are developing St Michael’s, a 1.43 hectare site in Manchester’s city centre which will house a 5-star hotel, offices, housing and retail outlets. They have also teamed up to transform Manchester’s historic Northern Stock Exchange building into a boutique hotel.

Meanwhile, United’s Abu Dhabi-owned crosstown rivals Manchester City recently reported record results for the 2015-16 season.

“Long-term financial sustainability is [a] well-documented key objective for us and we are seeing consistent and continued evidence of this in our financial performance,” said City’s chief executive Ferran Soriano.

“In the 2015-16 season, we achieved record revenues of £391.8 million [Dh1.75 billion] – an 11 per cent increase on the previous season – and, once again Manchester City FC generated a profit of £20.5m. These positive results were achieved in the context of a zero debt operation and a wage/revenue ratio of 50 per cent, a figure which is among the best in the football industry.”

The curtain rose on last season with the opening of the newly expanded Etihad Stadium.

“This expansion enabled us to post record crowds on multiple occasions during the season,” said Mr Soriano.

“We have seen a significantly enhanced atmosphere and fan experience, noticeable, for example when we played our Champions League games against Paris St Germain and Real Madrid. The renewed energy and atmosphere was very special.

“Together, I believe that we are in a great position to continue making history at Manchester City.”

* Reuters with The National staff

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