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  • Uniteds Profits Halved

    Manchester United's profits halve

    Buying Wayne Rooney and Alan Smith hurt the club's books

    Manchester United's half-year profits have dropped by more than 50%, hit by falling TV income and the cost of buying new players.
    It reported pre-tax profits of 12.4m for the six months to 31 January, down from 26.8m a year earlier.

    The club said potential buyer Malcolm Glazer was still examining its books.

    Chief executive David Gill reiterated the board's view that 300p a share was fair but other parts of the offer made it not in the club's "best interests".

    Takeover talk

    The board signalled its lack of enthusiasm for the 800m ($1.5bn) takeover approach from Mr Glazer, which has been passionately opposed by fans, saying it was "disruptive to the smooth running of the business".

    In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Gill said the US tycoon had been given access to the club's books, but added that there had been no new developments.

    He repeated the board's point of view that Mr Glazer's suggestion of 300 pence a share "was a fair and reasonable price for the club" but said that the US businessman's proposals involved too much debt and were "not in the best interests of the company".

    The club's statement noted that a "challenging first half to the year was made even more difficult by the continued speculation surrounding a possible offer for the company".

    TV challenge

    On the financial side, TV income was cut following the introduction of a new three-year Premier League contract and also by United's third-place finish in the Premiership last season.

    Finishing third reduced its earnings from the European Champions League this season. Revenue from Champions League screenings was 5.8m lower than in the same period a year ago.

    However, strong match-day and commercial revenue offset the fall in media earnings, so overall sales were little changed at 91.6m, compared with 92.4m.

    United's forays into the transfer market - which included 27m-signing Wayne Rooney along with Alan Smith and Gabriel Heinze - ate into profits.

    The signings, together with new contracts for manager Sir Alex Ferguson and striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, pushed the club's wage bill up 5m to 42.7m.

    But Mr Gill said the team had been strengthened by the signings and contract extensions and the board's aim was now "to continue to grow the business despite the tougher market conditions".

    Mr Gill also admitted that boss Ferguson is not unsackable, but he backed the Scot to turn around the club's fortunes.

    "He is sackable, we live in a pressurised sport and that pressure is always there," said Gill.

    "But removing Ferguson isn't something we have discussed. It would be detrimental to the club to make a knee-jerk reaction for not winning the league again.

    "We have a very strong management team with Sir Alex and Carlos Queiroz."

    Money spinners

    To improve the club's finances, the board is in talks with "major global companies" about future sponsorship deals, United said.

    It hopes to double the number of "platinum" sponsors to eight from August 2006.

    It is also expanding the Old Trafford stadium and exploring ways to beef up the earnings from MUTV, the club's home-grown broadcaster.

    Sales of Manchester United branded credit cards are doing well, with 50,000 new customers, the company said.
    Vets > Norms

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