Glazer leaves door open to future bid as Man Utd sees sales decline

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The Independent Online

Shares in Manchester United fell yesterday after Malcolm Glazer, the American businessman, said he had "no current intention" to make a takeover offer for the Old Trafford club.

Shares in Manchester United fell yesterday after Malcolm Glazer, the American businessman, said he had "no current intention" to make a takeover offer for the Old Trafford club.

Mr Glazer's statement, however, left the door open to a possible future bid for the club, which confirmed yesterday that sales for the six months to the end of January were slightly down on the same period in 2003.

David Gill, the chief executive, said the club had not seen any financial effect from selling David Beckham to Real Madrid last summer, even though commercial revenues were flat for the six-month period.

Total revenues fell from £92.6m to £92.4m although the company was still able to report operating profits up 27 per cent to £25.9m, ahead of market expectations. Part of the improvement was down to lower operating expenses, with the total wage bill in the first six months falling to £37.7m from £39.7m in 2003. This represented a 5 per cent fall, partly reflecting summer transfer activity including the Beckham deal and Juan Sebastian Veron's transfer to Chelsea. Other operating expenses fell 16 per cent, mainly thanks to the absence of revenue shares on domestic cup games that are included in operating costs.

Although media revenues, including money from television appearances, rose from £26.9m to £33.4m, commercial revenues, including shirt sales, were down slightly from £22.8m to £22.7m. Match day revenues were down more substantially, falling from £42.9m to £36.3m.

The increase in media revenues was due to the expected increase from the third and final year of the current FA Premier League television deal. However, the new deal, which starts in the 2004-05 season, will result in a 15 per cent reduction in domestic media revenues.

David Gill, the Man Utd chief executive, said the club had earmarked £45m for further ground development including an extra 7,500 seats, at least half of which would be available to non-corporate fans. However, Mr Gill said there would be a substantial investment in corporate hospitality facilities at the ground as part of the £45m.

Mr Gill said the six months had presented a number of challenges, including the furore surrounding Rio Ferdinand's missed drugs test. Mr Gill said: "I think back on it with some regret and disappointment. There are lessons to be learnt by the FA and by United and by the player. We regret it happened and we have to move on."

Another high-profile distraction was the row between Sir Alex Ferguson and John Magnier, one of Man Utd's biggest shareholders through Cubic Expression's 28 per cent stake, over the race horse Rock of Gibraltar and its stud rights.

Cubic Expression had also issued a list of 99 questions it wanted answering over the club's transfer dealings, demands that were leaked to the press. Mr Gill said he was "disappointed" the questions had been made public, adding that he thought the matter was better dealt with in private, although he said the club had "no issue" with the questions themselves.

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