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The big interview - Peter Pannu

Posted: Wed 02 Oct 2013

Peter Pannu

Peter Pannu has been in the UK this week as he continues to oversee operations with the club’s parent company in Hong Kong and business here at St. Andrew’s. took the opportunity to catch up with the club’s acting chairman for this week’s big interview.

Welcome back, Peter. There have been a lot of rumours doing the rounds recently regarding a potential takeover of the football club, are you able to give us an update?

“Yes, the recent rumour about a takeover is not correct. Due diligence was completed by a party some time ago and a time frame for an offer was set but we heard no more. As the offer did not materialise within that period, there is no imminent deal as is being suggested.

“I don’t have an appointment to meet anybody during my time here in the UK and, due to non-disclosure agreements, I don’t wish to discuss this any further. 

“I would stress again that as soon as there are any formal offers or movement on this matter then supporters will be notified through our official channels and in accordance with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. On that basis, I urge fans not to rely on speculation.

“The key point to make regarding the ownership of the football club is that Carson Yeung does not wish Birmingham International Holdings Limited (BIHL) to lose its listing status in Hong Kong and a full disposal of the club would hinder those plans. 

“Plans for the resumption of trading of BIHL’s shares are well underway in Hong Kong and when those plans are successful then the intention is that significant capital will be raised for the football club’s general operations. Therefore the priority at the moment is the resumption of trading. A full disposal of the club would hinder those plans as the listing status would be lost and that would go against Carson Yeung’s wishes or the wishes of the shareholders.”

Does Carson Yeung have plans to sell the football club once the resumption of trading is complete?

“Carson Yeung is personally in preliminary discussions with some buyers from Asia. So yes, I believe it may be his (and the shareholders’) ultimate intention, however, as outlined above, he is working to his own strategy on how to achieve this. At this stage, further details haven’t been brought to the board’s attention. I wish I could tell you more but at this stage I don’t know any more than that. Once the BIHL board is informed of further developments then I’m sure this will be announced but at this stage it is purely preliminary discussions.

“As far as I am concerned, the football club continues to operate well given the difficult circumstances. Obviously our issue with finances is no secret and cash flow is tight. I appreciate the situation is far from ideal but we are doing all we can to ensure the resumption of trading is complete so that the aforementioned equity can be raised.” 

We noted that you were overwhelmingly re-elected to the BIHL board by a majority of 92.89% in May. What duties have you undertaken in Hong Kong since this re-election? 

“Since taking over duties at BIHL, I have continued to work hard to ensure that the company’s accounts are up to date and that other shortcomings at group level were addressed, which has not been an easy task, and I can assure supporters that we are trying to get this completed as soon as possible.

“The conditions for the resumption of trading of BIHL’s shares have been made clear and can be found online here and here and we are working towards completing those conditions.”

A lot of Blues fans are fearful for the future of the club, are you able to calm that unease? 

“Of course, I fully understand why fans fear for the future of the club. Fortunately I have good people working back in England who have continued to ensure the smooth running of the club on a day-to-day basis. 

“Two and a half years ago when Carson Yeung’s assets were frozen as a result  of his arrest, things were not looking good at all for the club and at one point we owed HSBC £7 million and other outstanding payments for players we had purchased. That’s why I have to salute my staff back in England for the hard work they have put in to ensure that the business has continued to operate and whilst some decisions have not been popular, we have had to do whatever we can to keep the club going. I am happy to take all the criticism but I would be dismayed if the hard work of my staff is diminished in any way.

“Of course, patience and perseverance is still required and the situation is difficult but I believe we will be OK. For the time being, Carson Yeung wishes to keep BIHL’s listing status and we have to respect that.”

You have no doubt been keeping tabs on the club’s on-the-field fortunes, what are your thoughts?

“We must continue to support Lee Clark and his team. Lee was my appointment and I stand by him, as was the case with Chris Hughton, he was also my appointment and I equally stood by him.  

“Lee is doing a good job in very difficult circumstances. He has his arms and legs tied at the moment given our financial constraints as a result of Carson Yeung’s predicament.  The same can also be said for me given that current predicament.

“I regret that we are unable to give our manager more financial support but he continues to work hard and does a great job. What he has achieved with the resources available and the spirit he has raised within the dressing room is commendable and we give full credit to Lee and the team. I have met him today personally and I speak to him regularly from Hong Kong.”

Fans have been understandably frustrated by the sale of several first-team players, do you have any thoughts to give on this matter?

“Obviously our financial predicament, as a result of Carson Yeung’s arrest, has resulted in the adoption of a financial planning strategy which means the disposal of players has been paramount. 

“However it is worth highlighting that the vast majority of those players, and also Chris Hughton, have moved on to Premier League football clubs. This is naturally the ambition of any individual working in professional football and, as well as being handed the financial package that comes with being a Premier League footballer, we have been conscious of not standing in the way of certain individual’s ambitions. I can only say, it fits the needs of both the club and those who had also sought to depart.”

Finally, do you have a message for Blues fans in these tough times? 

“My heart really is with the fans for them having to put up with all of this nonsense. I’m doing all I can to ensure the group is in order. As I highlighted earlier in this interview, the resumption of trading will hopefully raise necessary capital but unfortunately it’s not easy. 

“I will do all I can in my powers to ensure that everybody is happy moving forward.

“What is important that we need everybody to stick together more than ever during these tough times. As the club motto goes, we must Keep Right On!.

“I have seen how the team responds when we back them and the last few home games is evidence of that. So please carry on with your support.”