REUTERS - English soccer club Manchester United said recent signings put it in a strong position on the pitch as it backed itself to match last year’s record revenue off the field.
However, United forecast core profit for the current year would dip from a record of almost 200 million pounds ($270 million) in 2016-17 as its wage bill rose because of higher payments on its return to the European Champions League.
United, whose top players include Paul Pogba and summer signing Romelu Lukaku, are currently joint top of the English Premier League. They have also qualified for the Champions League after winning the second-tier Europa League last season.
“We believe we have improved the balance and depth of our squad and are well placed to challenge for trophies,” Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward told financial analysts.
Controlled by the American Glazer family and with its shares traded in New York, United forecast revenue of between 575 million pounds and 585 million pounds in 2017-18.
That would be broadly in line with record revenue of 581 million pounds in the year to June 30.
United shares traded 3.7 percent higher at $17.85 in New York at 1500 GMT, valuing the club at around $2.8 billion.
As well as the Europa League, United won the League Cup last season, their first under manager Jose Mourinho. However, they had to settle for fifth place in the 20-team Premier League.
United reported core profit of 199.8 million pounds in the year to the end of June. That figure was likely to slip to between 175-185 million pounds in the current year as higher costs are felt.
United have started the season well on the pitch, crushing Basel 3-0 last week in the Champions League and winning four out of five Premier League games so far.
The Champions League, Europe’s top soccer tournament, is widely popular around the globe and garners significant revenue for the participating clubs via pooled TV payments and higher matchday receipts.
Woodward welcomed signs that groups such as Facebook and Amazon were interested in streaming rights for live sports, a move that could drive values ever higher.
“We will welcome the interest as it is important to digitally engage with fans and we think we can be complementary to partners like these coming in to the mix,” Woodward added.
In September, Facebook made a $600 million losing bid to buy the streaming rights to Indian Premier League cricket and analysts believe it could look at soccer next.
($1 = 0.7400 pounds)
Reporting by Rahul B in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir