London: Formula One's postponed flotation could be re-launched later this year, the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Wednesday. "Last year I thought that the markets were not ready, but now it is getting more likely that there is an opportunity," the 82-year-old British billionaire told the official formula1.com website ahead of Sunday's Australian season-opener.
"In the next three months or so somebody will have to decide yes or no," he added when asked about a possible float towards the end of the year. Ecclestone told Reuters last November that any initial public offering (IPO) was unlikely before 2014. The owners of Formula One had been preparing a $3 billion 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.
Private equity firm CVC, the sport's largest shareholder, has a stake of around 35.5 percent. Some 30 per cent of the business is owned by investment groups Blackrock, Waddell & Reed, Norges Bank and the Texas Teachers' pension fund. This year's Formula One championship will have 19 races, one less than last year due to the postponement of a planned grand prix in New Jersey and the disappearance of the European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain.
The German Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring was confirmed only at the end of January amid prolonged wrangling over hosting fees while a slot reserved for an unidentified European race in July has gone unfilled. Ecclestone suggested Europe could see fewer races in future with other countries, such as Thailand and Mexico, seeking slots.
"The fact is that we are a world championship, not a European championship, so maybe we are going to lose a couple of European races because we are going to other parts of the world," he said. "There are lots of countries knocking at our door and it is a case of finding the right places for Formula One." Russia is due to make its debut next year with a race in Winter Olympics venue Sochi.