Thursday 1 September 2011

Manchester United’s Q4 and full year results: 19 titles and a Champions League final

United's Q4 and full year 2010/11 results published today reflect a great season on the pitch that was almost as good as it gets.

The financial impact of the 19th title and reaching the Champions League final were significant on both the revenue and the cost lines. The EBITDA performance was exactly in line with my forecast in my post of 17th August, United remains a predictable money machine.

The interest bill remains very high (£51.7m in cash in 2010/11), and the year can be characterised as one where operating profits were largely used to reduce debt rather than invest in the club. Bond buybacks accounted for c. £64m, whilst net transfers only cost £11.4m. The cost of De Gea, Young and Jones will fall into the current financial year.


United played 29 home games in 2010/11 vs.28 the previous year and also benefited from a share of gate receipts for the two trips to Wembley. The extra games and gate sharing added c. 5.7% to matchday income with a strong US tour and better corporate hospitality sales adding c 2.7% to leave total matchday income up 8.4%. This is a really as good as it gets for matchday income with virtually the maximum number of games played at 99% of capacity crowds. There was no price increase put through in 2010/11 (excluding the VAT rise).

Media income rose £15m or 13.9% on the previous year. Premier League income rose £7.4m, largely from the overseas rights deal (shared equally by all PL clubs). Champions League income rose c. £5.5m due to the club reaching the Champions League final rather than quarter final (offset by a smaller "market pool" payment). The balance came from better domestic cup runs and MUTV. As with matchday, on current deals this is close to the maximum United can expect to earn from media. The extra earned from winning the Champions League would be c. £3.2m and the extra "market pool" payment for coming first in the PL is worth c. £3.6m.

This is of course the key growth area for the club. The 2010/11 results saw Commercial income rise 27% or £22m on the previous year. This was driven by the Aon deal (adding c. £6m pa), the contracted step-up in Nike income (adding c. £2.1m pa) and the raft of secondary sponsors (Conchay Y Toro, EPSON, Singha, DHL etc). Nike and Aon now account for 47.4% of Commercial income, with the majority now coming from the secondary partners. These figures pre-date the £10m pa DHL training kit deal and Mister Potato(!).

The club remain as bullish as ever on the scale of the Commercial opportunity, with significant costs being added in the new (Stratton Street) London office. The expectation being pushed to the media by the club is a doubling of the Nike and Aon deals when they are renewed in the next two to three years. Add DHL and further secondary partner growth and a 2015 Commercial income number of c. £190m looks achievable.

The price of success on the pitch can be seen in the sharp rise in costs during 2010/11. Staff costs rose £21.2m  or 16.1% to £153m. The club splits this increase between additional bonus payments of £9.7m and "normal" increases of £11.5m. So the "normal" inflation in wages was around 8.7%.

Other operating costs increased at an even faster rate than the wage bill, rising 26.4% year on year or £14m. Around £2.3m of this increase relates to higher pre-season tour costs and the costs of taking the club and its sponsors to Wembley for the Champions League final. The rest is largely related to continued spending on the club's commercial operations, on MUTV and on charitable donations to the Foundation (we will have to wait for the report and accounts for that number).

EBITDA and below
With revenue up 15.7% and costs up 19.1%, EBITDA rose 9.6% to £110.9m, a margin of 33.5%. Although the margin was down 1.8% on 2009/10, it remains well within the normal range seen since 1991.

The club has moved from UK GAAP to IFRS, eliminating the goodwill amortisation charge. The player amortisation charge was down 2% (reflecting a quiet year for transfers). Depreciation fell sharply (no explanation given). There was a £4.7m exceptional charge largely related to a bad lease in Ireland.

Cash flow, interest and debt
With EBITDA of over £110m and a positive working capital movement of £14.3m (pre-payments), operating cash flow was again very strong at £125.1m (up from £103.5m).

The major cash outflow was of course interest of £51.7m which must include some residual swap loss payments as flagged in the bond prospectus (although they are not identified separately).

Cash flow after interest and tax was c. £74m and the club chose to use the majority of this to reduce debt, buying back c. £64m (face value) of bonds and making its small regular payment on the Alderley property loan.

Investment in the squad (£11.4m) was low compared to recent years and infrastructure spending (£7.2m) was in-line with recent years. As stated above, the summer spending on De Gea, Young and Jones falls into the current year's accounts.

Taking all these items into account, the club's year end cash balance fell slightly to £150.6m, very much in line with the average year end balance (£155m) since the sale of Ronaldo. Around £45m will have been spent since the year end on new players, and a bond coupon payment of c. £20m was made on 1st August. The club therefore has a current balance of around £85-90m.

The bond buyback left gross debt at £458.9m and net debt at £308.3m. This is debt secured on United and excludes any family debt that may or may not be hidden in the US. The graph below shows how the club's debt position (net of any cash) has changed since the takeover. The key event is of course the vanishing of the PIKs in November 2010....

These are very strong operating results, but then they "should" be given the success of Fergie and his players on the pitch. Seasons don't get much better than 2009/10 and therefore the Matchday and Media income streams are very close to being as good as they can be. The performance of the commercial operations remains excellent, although the thing that really shows how strong they are is the DHL training kit deal which doesn't even appear in these figures.

The club thus remains a prodigious cash machine attached to a lot of debt. The £51.7m spent on interest takes the total spent on interest and fees since 2005 to £373m. Another £105m has been spent repaying debts taken on by the Glazers. The total of £478m is equivalent to 67% of the money spent on wages since the takeover or more than 7.5x the net transfer spend of the club.

It is hard to pronounce on the future until we know more about the proposed IPO. At the moment, surplus cash is being used to repay debt, a prudent waste of our club's money....  With net debt (at 30th June) down close to £300m, a debt free club is not unimaginable. That would be a huge improvement on the position in early 2010, but would have come at the cost of almost half a billion pounds of unasked for expense over the last five years.

You can read the results and see the club's presentation to investors here.