Gunners profits up

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LONDON, February 26 – Arsenal registered an increase of more than 20 percent in pre-tax profit for the second half of last year but warned Thursday that the slump in London property values was likely to hit their finances this year.

ARSENAL_LOGOFigures for the six months to November 30, 2008 showed the Gunners made pre-tax profit of 24.5 million pounds, up from 20 million for the corresponding period a year earlier.

The 2006 move to the 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium continues to underpin the club’s profitability with matchday turnover up 3.3 million to 44.4 million, while broadcasting revenues rose 4.5 million to 28.9 million.

The current economic crisis, which has hit the City of London’s financial sector particularly hard, has however clouded the outlook for future growth in match day profits with big companies taking the knife to corporate entertainment and many ordinary supporters struggling to meet ticket prices which are among the highest in England.

Uncertainty over the redevelopment of Arsenal’s old Highbury stadium as a residential complex is another cloud on the Gunners’ financial horizon.

The construction of 186 flats on the site of the stadium — parts of which have been preserved — is close to completion at a cost of 76.7 million pounds.

Only 58.1 million of that total had been covered by agreed sales as of November 30 and the club admitted that loans related to the project would have to be refinanced.

"There is a probable need to extend the term of the Highbury Square bank loan and discussions with the banking syndicate are at a preliminary stage," the club acknowledged.

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood said: "Clearly there are some significant challenges ahead of us, both on and off the pitch, over the closing months of this financial year and beyond."

He added however that the uncertainty would not affect manager Arsene Wenger’s ability to buy new players, if he deemed that necessary, citing the recent acquisition of Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin.

"The UK property market has been particularly affected by the economic downturn and, inevitably, this has had an impact on the group’s own property development activities in the period," Hill-Wood continued.

"The financial arrangements for the group’s property activities are separate and largely operate independently from the financing of the football business.

"This has always been a key aspect of our financial structure for the group and is intended to provide us with the ability to develop the football team as with, for example, the signing of Andrei Arshavin, irrespective of the difficult conditions in which our property business is having to operate."

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