Poor Luke Edwards finds himself banned again. This time the “club” have taken exception to his speculation that Ashley would be selling NUFC. Subsequently, statements have been made by Ashley to the Stock Exchange about his Rangers shareholdings as well as Luke’s ban. 

It has been a newsworthy week. As frequently happens at Newcastle United, drama takes place during international breaks. Among these were the renaming of St James’ Park to an unrepeatable arena, protest at the stadium subsequently also being overshadowed by the death of Gary Speed. 

This weak, the ball started rolling with the attendance of eminent journalists of Newcastle United affairs, Simon Bird and George Caulkin. Whether they did this off their own bats or got the hint from one of the NUFC chat rooms, it is to their credit that the turned up at Ashley’s biggest interest’s AGM. 

Simon and George managed to unearth something uncharacteristic. Ashley actually uttered a few words to say, in effect, nothing about his football club ownership. Also uncharacteristic, Pardew was restricted, during his regular Thursday pre-match conference, to uttering few words on an issue, that of the transfer window. Luke has got a few words out of, presumably, Lee Charnley, this time through the a club statement, presumably inspired by the lovely Wendy Taylor. 

Some would say that journalists are actually doing their jobs. 

The statements require closer scrutiny. The first is on Rangers. “I will not be participating in the open offer which closes at 11am today”. Some have taken this at face value. What does he mean by participating? 

Ashley’s share dealings are littered with examples of selling on strength and buying on weakness. He has of course made mistakes, or gambles that have not come off. His casino records show the same sort of patterns. He has bought brands at their lowest ebbs and sought to regenerate them, albeit often at a lower perception of quality. 

It may also be argued that he has manipulated prices to his own advantage, floating his own company at a price that was not sustained, buying back when the price was low and then selling when achieving FTSE100 status. 

Rangers can hardly be argued to be at a level of historic strength. In the 2nd tier of Scottish football, revenue is significantly below SPL levels when they were also regulars in Europe. By failing to “participate”, a larger stake may well become available at a lower price. 

Ashley has not specifically mentioned “underwriting”.  For the uninitiated, this is a process which guarantees a price below the offer price, much as Nigel Lawson arrested the Stock Market crash by underwriting BP shares, at a level some 40% below the offer price. 

The next statement came from Newcastle United. Luke is banned again. Ashley will apparently not be selling Carroll, sorry, Newcastle United, at any price, at least not until the end of next season. 

For some of us, 2+2 = 5. 

UEFA rules forbid the owning of two clubs who may be able to play each other in the same competition. Newcastle United and Rangers are obviously in different leagues. Neither are in Europe this year and it is a matter of public record that his Newcastle United have no ambitions towards Europe. 

Ashley’s Newcastle United prioritises the league and Pardew has stated on a number of occasions what an inconvenience the Europa League was. The dire cup record over Pardew’s tenure is further evidence of a lack of interest. 

By confirming that the club is not for sale “at any price”, until the end of next season, Ashley effectively gives himself the opportunity of delaying a decision on which club to take forward. The earliest that either could meet in European competition is August 2016, unless of course in the unlikely event that both clubs wins a domestic cup this season. 

Ashley and his regime were also, as many resent, were shown to be misleading during the Keegan tribunal. 

So why would Ashley sell now? His Newcastle United have started to show operating profits. This was before the extra finance available from current Premier League deals. 

The next accounts will show an increased level of revenues, notably from TV money. In addition, the sale of Cabaye adds significantly to overall profit levels, just as the sale of Carroll did. 

Based on pre-tax profits, the sheer scale of profitability will not be accurately reported until March 2015. Based on current Stock Market fundamentals for similar businesses, these should value NUFC in excess of £1bn. Clearly, now is not the time for him to sell, particularly if he can repeat the model by selling players such as Tiote, Krul and Sissoko. 

In the meantime, having paid a premium to asset value when buying Newcastle United, Ashley still manages to maintain a tax write off against “goodwill” valuations. By taking his profits as loan repayments to himself, effectively, he has given himself a very healthy tax free income for years to come. 

Many Newcastle United supporters regard Ashley as the Devil incarnate. As we all know, often the devil is in the detail. On this occasion, the detail is not up front – is Ashley?