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Record-setting Manchester United eye Asian riches

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
The global appeal of Manchester United, with its star players such as Wayne Rooney, has never been higher.
The global appeal of Manchester United, with its star players such as Wayne Rooney, has never been higher.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Manchester United's turnover increases by almost $73 million to $536 million
  • EPL club considering plan to raise $1 billion on the Singapore Stock Exchange
  • United's net debt stands at $498.7 million despite recent commercial successes
  • They won the Premier League last year and were finalists in the Champions League
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(CNN) -- Manchester United has announced a record operating profit of £110.9 million ($176 million) for last season, cementing its position as the world's richest football club.

The English Premier League champions also reported that its turnover for the year had increased by almost $73 million to $536 million, as it considers a plan to raise a further $1 billion on the Singapore Stock Exchange to reduce its considerable debt burden.

United's net debt stands at $498.7 million, in part due to the money the U.S.-based Glazer family had to raise to buy the club for $1.2 billion in 2005. The deal effectively left the club with a huge mortgage and crippling interest payments -- believed to be around $72 million a year, according to British media reports.

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But a hugely successful year on and off the pitch has helped to alleviate the pressure.

On the pitch, they won their 19th Premier League title -- another record -- and were beaten finalists in the lucrative Champions League, Europe's top club competition.

The club also scored off the pitch with a series of high-profile commercial deals, including the first year of their $129 million shirt sponsorship agreement with the Aon Corporation and a $64 million deal with logistics company DHL to sponsor their training kit.

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However, the club's financial strategy is increasingly focused on Asia, where it has an estimated 190 million supporters -- helped in no small part by the proliferation of English Premier League broadcast rights across the region in recent years.

As a result, United's owners favor Singapore for the initial public offering (IPO) to cash in on this enormous fan base, though Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that they will pursue a dual-share structure, whereby investors will have to purchase one "non-voting" share for every voting share.

This will allow the Glazers to raise funds while retaining control of the club they de-listed from the London Stock Exchange six years ago.

Earlier this month, the club announced a three-year partnership with a Vietnamese mobile telecoms company.

According to United's official website, Beeline will distribute a range of content, from on the pitch action, to news and interviews, to the club's estimated 16 million fans in Vietnam.

"Everyone knows about the passion of our fans in that part of the world and this deal makes it a lot easier for us to keep in touch with them," said United manager Alex Ferguson.