United finance shock: Have Glazers put Red Devils on road to meltdown?
They boast of having 469million followers around the world but then warn that they may have to sell their own stadium. They are the most valuable football club in the world - worth £1.2billion according to Forbes - but have no money of their own to buy players. This is Manchester United 2010; Manchester United the Glazer way. Fears of financial meltdown have stalked the dreams of supporters since the Glazer family took their club into private ownership in 2005. History lesson: an emotive image from the brochure attempting to sell United to potential investors Now - as they tour the world trying to raise £500m to ease the burden of debts worth £699m - United's owners have put down in black and white just what their four-and-half turbulent years have done to England's most famous football club. Here are five warning signs from the 'Preliminary Offering Memorandum' distributed to potential investors this week. 1. Selling Old Trafford and Carrington training ground United need to raise money and quickly. One way they can do this is to sell their assets and then lease them back. Previously, they have denied they would do this but in the document the club admit that: Read the 322-page offer document in full (opens PDF file) 'The indenture governing the Notes (bonds) will limit our ability to sell or transfer, but not prohibit us from selling or transferring, our training ground facilities and our stadium. 'Although in the sale or transfer of any of these properties, the transferee will be required to enter into a long-term lease with us to enable us to continue to have substantially the same access to such property as we currently do, if we sell or transfer either or both of these properties, we will no longer control them.' In the short term it is unlikely that United will sell Old Trafford. The training ground, however, is already under consideration. Investment for the future: The impressive Manchester United Football Academy at Carrington 2. Player Spending is zero The club made a £7m profit on player spending over the last three financial years ending June 20, 2009. In other words, they have spent nothing. Now they are admitting they will have to use their recently arranged £75m credit facility to buy players this summer and the prospectus says: 'Although we have not historically drawn on our revolving credit facilities in the summer window, if we seek to acquire players with values substantially in excess of the values of players we seek to sell, we may be required to draw from our revolving credit facilities to meet our cash needs.' 3. The debt could get worse The document warns that the Glazers may need to refinance their spiralling debts again in the future. It says: 'We believe the proceeds of this offering ... will be sufficient ... to meet our capital requirements and pay our interest. However, if cash flows are less than projected, we will require additional debt or financing in amounts that could be substantial.' Behind the scenes: Sir Alex Ferguson (right) watches over (left-right) Federico Macheda, Patrice Evra and Nani at a training session at Carrington 4. This could require United to sell players Despite their massive turnover and unrivalled income streams from match days, commerce and the media, United broke even last year only because of the £80m sale of winger Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in a world-record transfer deal. The prospectus warns that player sales could be necessary again and adds that the club's debts could: 'Require us to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow to pay the debt, thereby reducing the availability of our cash flow to fund the hiring and retention of talented players.' Cris of life: United broke even only because of the £80m sale of Ronaldo to Real Madrid 5. Spending money they haven't got This summer United will officially begin a lucrative four-year shirt sponsorship deal with American financial giant Aon which took just three weeks to thrash out. The contract is worth a staggering £80m but the prospectus reveals thatUnited have already had - and presumably spent - an advance of £36m. HOW ARE UNITED SELLING THE BONDS?In short, they are hitting the road and giving it the hard sell. Earlier this week they were in Hong Kong and Singapore. They will be in London, Paris, Frankfurt and Zurich over the next two days. WHAT IS THE DOCUMENT?It is a Preliminary Offering Memorandum, it is 298 pages long and is accessible to read in print or online.WHAT IS IT FOR?Its purpose is to encourage investors to buy a stake, or bond, in Manchester United to help the club alleviate its enormous debt. The bonds come in denominations of £50,000. HOW DOES IT WORK?United are paying a significant part of their £699million debt off at high interest rates. They will use the cash they raise here, ideally around £500m, to pay some of that off while rewarding their new bond holders with a return at a lower interest rate. We are told that: 'Our net cash inflow for the year ended June 30, 2009was £111.2m - a significant increase that reflects an advance paymentof £35.9m as part of our new shirt sponsorship agreement.' PSBut don't worry. The Glazers can still afford to pay themselves. One of the most intriguing parts of the document is found deep on Page 89. Under the heading 'Related Party Transactions' we learn that the Glazer family Christmas of 2008 was made somewhat more merry by loans from United totalling some £10m. It is also stated that United have agreed to pay a company connected to the Glazers an annual fee of £2.9m under a 'consultancy agreement', and that 'management and administration fees' of £0.6m, £1.8m, £1.4m, £3.1m and £3.1m have been paid to 'affiliates' since July 2006. 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