An American buying the crown jewel of British soccer? We are catching on to this game, aren't we? Malcolm Glazer, who owns the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in recent weeks has upped his stake in Manchester United, the world's most valuable sports franchise and a listed company. Glazer, a billionaire businessman who lives in Florida, now owns just under 17% of the Reds. The team brought in a world-best $289 million last season, according to Deloitte & Touche, topping the New York Yankees' $280 million in revenues. The notably unglib Glazer won't tip his next play, but he's up against a pair of other big Man U shareholders, Irish tycoons John Magnier and J.P. McManus. The two have recently increased their combined stake to about 29%. "It's extremely unlikely someone would buy the team," says Andrew Lee, an equity analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in London, pointing to the stock's rich price, recently £2.67, which makes the team worth about $1.3 billion. Then again, he says, "you can never discount someone with more money than sense who wants to satisfy his hobby."
It's Cheaper in Canada
If universal health care and proficiency at winter sports haven't sold you on the idea of Canada, try this: it's the cheapest place in the developed world to do business. The penny-pinching brigade at KPMG set out to find the least expensive cities in which to run a company, and indicators pointed north. Canada beat out 10 other industrialized nations on 27 metrics like labor, taxes and utilities. Each country's cost index, below, is benchmarked to a U.S. score of 100. So, for example, costs run almost 24% higher in Japan. The U.S. ranked No. 7, as it did two years ago, when the survey was previously conducted. Among major cities, Montreal, Melbourne and Toronto proved most affordable. On the other end of the scale, Yokohama, Japan; Frankfurt, Germany; and London cost the most. And then, for the true tightwad, there is the cheapest of the cheap: Sherbrooke, a city of 138,000 in Quebec. Everyone say bon marche.
A Downshift for Lotus
With acceleration from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in under 5 sec. and a top speed of nearly 150 m.p.h., the two-seat, 190-h.p. Lotus Elise roadster is sleek, sexy ... and affordable? When the newest model from the British sports-car maker arrives in U.S. showrooms in late May, the base sticker price will be $39,985. That's less than half the price of the Lotus currently being sold, the Esprit. With the shift to thrift, Lotus hopes to attract a broader customer base, including women, by competing against sports machines like the Audi TT, Honda S2000 and Porsche Boxster. Lotus thinks it can rev its U.S. business, now idling at about 125 Esprits, and sell up to 2,400 Elises a year. The Elise has scored in Europe, where the model debuted in 1996. Since then, Lotus has sold almost 20,000 of the congenially priced autos.
The world's biggest retailer doesn't have a single store in India, whose $4.95 billion organized retail industry is growing as rapidly as its spend-happy middle class. Reason: ownership restrictions imposed by the government at the behest of lobbyists representing India's 30 million small shopkeepers. They contend that foreign superstores would spell their mass unemployment. It's a refrain heard in the U.S. and now being outsourced pardon the phrase. Indian free-traders point out that Wal-Mart, which entered China in 1996, employs more than 15,000 locals there. The Indian government let Metro, a German retailer, open wholesale stores a back-door entry that raised hopes for a progressive policy across the board. But New Delhi gives no indication of going further anytime soon, especially since it's an election year in India.
After more than a decade of stalled efforts, dirt is finally flying at the Moscow International Business Center, a commercial and residential quarter better known as Moscow City, five miles by car from the Kremlin. Following such infrastructure improvements as a new subway line and a third loop for Moscow's main roadway, real estate firms are jumping in. Enka, a Turkish construction company, broke ground on the first of three buildings (to stand 17, 27 and 56 stories high) and has signed IBM, Eli Lilly and other multinationals as tenants. The Capital Group recently started two mixed-use skyscrapers designed by Dutch architecture outfit Erick van Egeraat. The city can use the new space. With a vacancy rate of 5.3% and rents averaging $58 per sq. ft., Moscow is the tightest office market and fourth most expensive in Europe, according to real estate management firm Jones Lang LaSalle. But the new digs at Moscow City won't be for the proletariat. Says Gerald Gaige, a partner at Ernst & Young in Moscow: "It will be the upper-crust companies that populate Moscow City."