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Blatter focused on the long game as Wanda Sports IPO flops

Wanda Sports Group saw its share price fall 36 per cent on its trading debut after its initial public offering on NASDAQ raised just $190m, less than half its early goal for the listing.

The aspirational price of shares was in the $12-$15 range but, ahead of Friday’s IPO, they were priced at $8, opening at $6 before closing at $5.15. Bloomberg reports the listing as the second worst debut on a US exchange this year.

Despite the second downward adjustment, Wanda Sports Group’s president and vice-chairman Philippe Blatter likened the US market to the Ironman Triathlon endurance sports event that is part of the group’s portfolio holdings.

Speaking to SportBusiness US editor Eric Fisher ahead of Friday’s close, Blatter said the IPO was merely the beginning of what is intended to be a long-term global journey for the newly reorganized company. Dalian Wanda spent nearly $1.9bn collectively to acquire Infront and World Triathlon Corp., producer of the Ironman.

“What we have in mind is a long-term strategy. I like to make an analogy to the beginning of Ironman racing,” Blatter said. “For the swimming, I might want to be out of the water and on the bike in one hour. But it might take 1 hour, 15 minutes, or 1 hour, 20 minutes. But that has not brought me down. I still have the one goal and it’s the finish line, and whatever is needed to get to that finish line. It’s the same here, and it’s important to focus on the implementation of our strategy and focus on delivering value to our clients.”

Blatter said some of the downward shifts also owed to both investor response during the company’s pre-IPO roadshows, as well as some larger macroeconomic and political trends.

“I can’t control some of these things, but I can control our strategy and our plan, and that’s what I focus on,” Blatter said.

The funds generated by IPO will be used to repay a loan connected to the restructuring of the group, as well as investments and general corporate use.

More broadly, Blatter said the IPO achieves several key goals for Wanda Sports. In additional to providing increased credibility and transparency in the market and helping fund corporate expansion, the move is also designed to help expand the company’s profile globally and particularly in the US.

The company already has several touchpoints to the US market through not only the Ironman brand, but the Ironman’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon series and Infront’s digital agency Omnigon, which works with numerous sports entities.

“This opens doors to us to potential sports clients that we might not have automatically had coming out of Europe,” Blatter said.

Wanda Sports Group posted a $61.9m (€54m) profit for 2018, down 31 per cent from the year prior. More recently, the company reported a loss of $9.7m for the first quarter of 2019