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Manchester United’s Nick Powell celebrates his goal against Wigan Athletic with teammates Sept. 15, 2012. (DARREN STAPLES/REUTERS)
Manchester United’s Nick Powell celebrates his goal against Wigan Athletic with teammates Sept. 15, 2012. (DARREN STAPLES/REUTERS)

Manchester U. fans lose on and off pitch Add to ...

Manchester United are relying on a better performance on the pitch to boost earnings after a barren season pushed the English Premier League club deeper into the red in its first results since flotation.

United, owned by the American Glazer family, failed to win a trophy last season for the first time since 2005 and made an early exit from the lucrative European Champions League, meaning lower income from sales of tickets and TV rights.

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The cost of those failures was apparent as the club made a loss from continuing operations of £14.9-million in the three months to the end of June 2012. Last year the club made a loss of £400,000 in the same period.

United floated on the stock market in New York last month at $14 per share, valuing the 19-times English champions at $2.3-billion (£1.4-billion) in a deal that left the Glazers firmly in control of the club. The shares have drifted lower since then and were trading at $12.69 at 5:00 p.m. British time, down 2 per cent on the day. The club has debts of £437-million.

United are keen to portray last season’s failures on the pitch as a one-off and underline the commercial value of a club which claims 659 million followers globally.

However, the inherent uncertainty of sports has often made investors wary of buying into listed football clubs.

“As if proof were needed, football clubs are inextricably linked to what happens on the pitch,” said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Britain’s Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers.

“Manchester United’s early elimination from the Champions League last season has impacted broadcasting revenues, taken 2.5 per cent off the shares in New York in early trade and left investors nursing a 10-per-cent loss on the price since flotation in August,” he added.

United did not qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions’ League last season, only the third time in 17 years that they had failed to progress in that competition.

The club forecast a brighter 2012-13, based on an expectation that the team will at least reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League and domestic cup competitions.

It said underlying earnings (EBITDA) should rise by 17-20 per cent, to £107-million to £110-million. Revenue was likely to be between £350-million to £360-million, up from £320-million last year.

United lost their English Premier League title on the last day of the season to local rivals Manchester City, bankrolled by cash from Abu Dhabi.

However, United retain powerful commercial appeal thanks to their global fan base, many of whom are in Asia.

The club has just signed a record $559-million shirt sponsorship deal to have the Chevrolet brand on its red shirts for seven years from 2014.

The 20-team Premier League has also agreed a new £1-billion annual domestic TV deal from 2013, up 70 per cent. Clubs divide the money based on league position and number of times they appear on TV.

“We also expect a substantial increase in the value of the Premier League’s international television contracts scheduled to be announced later this year,” executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said in a statement.

The club is a household name in football-loving parts of the world but has only a limited following in the United States. However, it opted for a New York flotation after ditching plans to list in Asia.

The listing was structured to leave the Glazer family firmly in control of a club they bought in 2005 for £790-million in a highly leveraged deal.

A vocal section of United’s fans say the owners have held the club back by saddling it with hefty debt repayments.

United said debt was £436.9-million at the end of June. The flotation raised $233-million of which approximately £68-million has been used to reduce borrowings.

The Glazers took home half of the proceeds from the flotation, angering fans who wanted all the proceeds to benefit the club.

Criticism of the Glazers has subsided after United paid out a reported £24-million to sign Dutch striker Robin van Persie from Premier League rivals Arsenal in August.

United have won three of their first four league matches this season and are in second place in the league behind Chelsea.

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