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Formula One IPO unlikely before 2014: Ecclestone

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone gestures during the presentation of a commemorative book presented to him on the occasion of his birth
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone gestures during the presentation of a commemorative book presented to him on the occasion of his birth

By Alan Baldwin

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Formula One is unlikely to float on the stock market before 2014, the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Thursday.

"The market's going to take a little bit of settling down, I think," the 82-year-old billionaire told Reuters in the paddock at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

"I think we ought to forget about it for next year," added Ecclestone. "In my opinion we ought to (forget about 2013). I should think by 2014 the world will have sorted itself out a little bit better."

The owners of Formula One had been preparing a $3 billion initial public offering (IPO) in Singapore last June but decided to hold off as global markets tumbled and investor mood soured after Facebook's plunge in value following its flotation.

Ecclestone said then that Formula One would wait until the time was right but the situation has since evolved further.

Private equity firm CVC, the largest shareholder in the sport, has since quietly sold down its stake to around 35.5 percent from 63 percent without the fanfare that accompanies a flotation.

Blackrock, Waddell & Reed and Norway's Norges Bank Investment bought the stake from CVC for $2.1 billion.

The $100 billion Texas Teachers' pension fund is also set to buy a three percent stake in Formula One, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters this month, from the estate of collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers.

The investment groups together will own some 30 percent of the business. The Lehman estate still owns 12 percent, worth some $800 million at the current price.

Ecclestone also faces possible legal action from Munich-based German Landesbank BayernLB which is seeking $400 million in damages from the Briton over a deal to sell its stake in 2005.

The Formula One boss told reporters in India last week that he would fight the claim in court if need be.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by John Mehaffey)

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