Chile's Palestino tapping roots to go public

Updated: August 17, 2009, 2:09 PM ET
Reuters

By Claudio Cerda

SANTIAGO, Aug 17 - Chilean first division club Palestino aim to appeal to their Arab heritage by floating on the stock exchange at home and in the Palestinian territories.

Palestino, which represents Chile's 300,000-strong Palestinian-descendant community, the largest in Latin America, hope to raise $2 million as they become the only western company listed on the Palestinian stock exchange, said the club's general manager Francisco Riveros.

"We are looking to expand and what better market than the Palestinian which is where the club's potential foreign shareholders are," he told Reuters in an interview.

"We chose 'Palestine' because of the emotional bond and our board's interest in sharing their pride in this club with the Palestinians and Arabs in the motherland, and are looking for people seeking investment opportunities."

The share offering would make Palestino the third club to trade on the Santiago Stock Exchange. Two of the country's biggest teams, Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile, are already quoted.

Club Deportivo Palestino, twice Chilean champions in 1955 and 1978, made waves last year when, on one of the lowest budgets in the first division, they reached the final of the Clausura championship against Colo Colo.

The final, won by Colo Colo, the only Chilean team to have been crowned South American champions in 1991, was televised live on giant screens in Bethlehem.

"We hope this level of recognition will help when we enter the capital markets," Riveros said.

"I talk every day with people on the stock exchange and the Bank of Palestine who have expressed a lot of interest on behalf of different groups in becoming a part of the club."

Although the Bank of Palestine does not operate in Chile it became a team sponsor in June and plans to buy between $100,000 and $200,000 of Palestino's shares when they go public, Riveros said.

The club want to use the proceeds to invest in new players, remodel their rented stadium in the Chilean capital Santiago and improve their youth teams.

In the first half of 2009 Palestino reported a loss of 406 million pesos ($731,000) against a gain of 13 million pesos during the same period last year.

Palestino coach Luis Musrri said he hoped the club's improved finances would translate into on-field success.

"Boosting our finances will allow us to focus on accomplishing other things," he said. "Palestino got to the final with very little, now I hope we can repeat it."

(Writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Tony Jimenez. To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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