By Aastha Agnihotri
REUTERS – A return to the lucrative Champions League helped English soccer club Manchester United to report a 39 percent rise in first-quarter revenue, higher broadcast and matchday income taking the figure to a record level.
Sales for the first three months of the 2015-16 financial year were also boosted by income from a new kit supply deal with Germany’s Adidas and the fact that shirts and other equipment are selling well.
United, currently fourth in the English Premier League, failed to qualify for last season’s Champions League, Europe’s top club competition, but look set to progress out of their group to the knockout stages.
The relatively poor performance of English teams in the Champions League in recent years could eventually cost them one of the four slots in the competition.
“If we did as badly as last year and Italy and Germany did as well as they did last year then that fourth position would come under threat for next year,” Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward told financial analysts.
The club, owned by the American Glazer family, maintained expectations for higher full-year adjusted core earnings of 165 million to 175 million pounds, up from 119.9 million pounds ($182.5 million) last year. It is forecasting annual revenue of between 500 and 510 million pounds.
The club is to pay a quarterly dividend of $0.045 per share.
Shares in Manchester United jumped almost seven percent to $19.39 on the New York Stock Exchange, valuing the club at around $3 billion.
United, English league winners a record 20 times, are trying to return to winning ways after team manager Alex Ferguson signed off in May 2013 after 26 years in charge.
Dutchman Louis van Gaal, who took over as coach last year after an ill-fated spell for Ferguson’s replacement David Moyes, has recruited young French striker Anthony Martial and experienced German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The team is performing well this season although a shortage of goals has frustrated some fans accustomed to a more attacking style.
United said total revenue rose to 123.6 million pounds in the three months to Sept. 30, from 88.7 million pounds a year earlier. Adjusted core earnings almost doubled to 41.6 million pounds.
The club’s global appeal, which it says stretches to 659 million followers, continues to prove lucrative, with four sponsorship deals signed in the quarter.
($1 = 0.6588 pounds)
(Reporting by Aastha Agnihotri in Bengaluru; Editing by Kate Holton and Keith Weir)