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Feb 14, 2013

Manchester United reports strong growth

LONDON -- Manchester United is running away with the English Premier League title, and achieving record success off the pitch as well.

The club on Thursday forecast record revenue this season of 350 million pounds ($542 million) to 360 million pounds ($558 million) as it released financial results for the last three months of a trophyless 2012.

United's revenue rose nine percent year-on-year in that period to a record 110 million pounds ($170 million), and pre-tax profit soared 48 percent to 28.4 million pounds ($44 million).

Alex Ferguson's side unexpectedly exited the Champions League in the group stage in the 2011-12 season but is thriving again in Europe, drawing 1-1 in the first leg of its last-16 match at Real Madrid on Wednesday.

And after losing out on the Premier League title last season to Manchester City on goal difference, United enjoys a 12-point lead over the second-place champions.

Due to the imminent expectation of silverware, protests against the owning Glazer family have virtually disappeared at Old Trafford.

Using the proceeds of its flotation on the New York Stock Exchange, the gross debt that has angered fans in the past has dropped 17 percent in a year to 366.6 million pounds ($567 million).

After a disappointing market debut in August at a discounted $14 a share, United was trading at $18.60 on Thursday afternoon.

Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward told investors the record revenue is being driven by "extremely strong growth, particularly in sponsorship."

United has been rapidly raising cash through innovative global sponsorship agreements, with six deals signed in the final three months of 2012 with companies in Japan, China, Indonesia and Turkey. Commercial revenue in the second quarter rose 29 percent year-on-year to 35.6 million pounds ($55 million).

United has bought out its sponsorship deal with express delivery and freight firm DHL early in a bid to secure more cash for the rights to its training kit. The record 19-time English champions announced Thursday that a new eight-year deal had been agreed with a company that is yet to be announced.

That revenue is helping United to maintain a competitive team, with salaries rising 14 percent to 44.2 million pounds between October and December.

In July and August, United spent 29.5 million pounds ($47 million) on players, including midfielders Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell, and the first of two payments to Arsenal for striker Robin van Persie.

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