(Reuters) - English soccer club Manchester United is on course to meet its financial targets for 2016-17, it said on Thursday, citing commercial strength that helps to shield it from ups and downs on the pitch.
Net debt, which has been a concern among United fans, was up 27 percent at 409 million pounds ($514 million) at the end of December because of the U.S. dollar’s strength against the pound over the year. The underlying debt was unchanged in dollar terms, the club said.
United’s accounts were boosted by a 4.8 million pound credit after German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger won back a place in the first team squad, United previously having written off his value.
United, whose best known players include Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, are sixth in the 20-team English Premier League and have reached the League Cup final.
Controlled by the American Glazer family, United are targeting a top four finish under new manager Jose Mourinho to ensure a return to the lucrative Champions League.
Revenue increased by 18 percent to 158 million pounds in the three months to the end of December, with big increases for matchday and broadcast income.
Matchday revenue climbed 27 percent to 38.6 million pounds as the team played three more home games at Old Trafford during the period.
Broadcasting revenue soared almost 41 percent to 52.5 million pounds, helped by new rights deals for Premier League clubs. Commercial revenue -- the largest component -- edged up by 1 percent.
United have won the English league title a record 20 times but have slipped from their own lofty standards since manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
The team is unbeaten in 15 Premier League matches and Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward said the playing squad was now more settled.
“We want to get into a more steady state where we are buying and potentially selling lower number of players each year. I think we are in that kind of environment now when compared to 2-3 years ago,” he said on an investor call.
The club’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose to 69 million pounds in the quarter, from 56 million pounds a year earlier.
“Q2 EBITDA is a record quarter profit for the club and a testament of resilience of our business model which allows us to overcome the performance volatility inherent in sports and simultaneously invest in our business for growth,” Woodward said.
Expanding its digital operations, the club plans to launch a Manchester United TV app across the globe where competition and partner rights allow.
The club reiterated its revenue target of between 530 to 540 million pounds for the year to the end of June.
Its shares, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, rose 1.6 percent, valuing the business at around $2.5 billion.
($1 = 0.7964 pounds)
Reporting by Rahul B in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir