What happens on the football pitch is the single most important factor to the success of Manchester United (NYSE:MANU). The club's sizable commercial, broadcasting and match day revenues would not be possible if the club were not so successful on the field. The club must continue its incredible record if it is to retain its wealth and marketing power. All eyes will be on the incoming manager, David Moyes. Can he continue where Ferguson left off? What kind of financial clout will he have in the transfer market? How will the team transition to new leadership and, ultimately, how may this affect Manchester United's stock price?
Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement, as has the club's chief executive, David Gill. Moreover, veteran player Paul Scholes is hanging up his boots, though his experience will be retained in the form of a coaching role. The future of the striker, Wayne Rooney, is still uncertain. Added to this, the club's "noisy neighbors", Manchester City, will want to avenge the loss of the Premier League title this year by undoubtedly pumping a ton of money into the transfer market for new players. Chelsea, according to the London club's outgoing coach, Rafael Benitez, will spend a staggering €100 million ($128 million) on new players this summer's close season. Looking at the financials, the club is still loaded with debt, currently standing at some 360 million pounds sterling ($545 million). Its annual repayments on interest of this debt stand at under 40 million pounds ($60 million), which continues to cut a big hole in United's profit margins. With all these factors in mind, the doom-mongers would point to a decidedly uncertain future for the Premier League champions. However, this is not necessarily the case and in all likelihood, is not even close.
Manchester United claims to have 659 million followers. The club's Facebook page alone has well over 300 million. It's global fan base size is extraordinary. Under the Glazer ownership since 2005 the club has won five Premier League trophies, one Champions League and one World Club Cup, among other trophies. The Glazer family have reduced overall debt from 660 million pounds ($1 billion) in 2005 to 360 million pounds ($545 million) in 2013. However, the approach that the Glazer family took in 2005 was that of a highly vulnerable, high risk business model. They got lucky to a significant degree. In no way does the strengthened position of the club point to good ownership. They played with the future of the club and they continue to drain its financial resources.
If it weren't for the incredible consistency that Sir Alex Ferguson oversaw as team manager, United may well have gone the way of their old rivals, Liverpool football club, who today are still, to a considerable extent, reeling from the horrendous management of the previous George Gillett - Tom Hicks ownership. However, with greatly reduced debts and increased revenues, United are in a much healthier financial position than in recent years. As long as David Moyes can ensure United qualify for the Champions League and make it past the initial group stage, the club should continue to be in a healthy position. If this happens, revenue would likely "rise by at least 35% over the next three years, and is likely to rise by 50% or more". With new sponsorship deals, such as with Chevrolet, United have increased sponsorship revenue by 52.2%, not to mention increased match day and commercial revenue. Within three to five years if United consistently qualify for the Champions League and get past the group stage, something that has been common almost every year, within three to five years this could lead to material dividends with a yield of almost 2%.
There is an upcoming summer tour of Australasia and the club will go into next season defending their Premier League title as well as launching a renewed assault on the Champions League. The Old Trafford outfit will also benefit directly from the new record television deal, in which British Telecom are to pay 760 million pounds ($1.15 billion) a season to the league for broadcasting rights of live premier league games.
David Moyes is a welcome choice by many, rather than the proven but divisive Jose Mourinho. As manager of Everton, Moyes was seen to be coaching a team consistently punching way above their weight. Crucially for United, he has many of the same qualities as Ferguson, qualities that United want to keep; unlike Mourinho, he is known for his hands-on approach with the youth set-up. Furthermore, he is loyal, having spent over a decade as Everton manager, and a proven man-manager, capable of coaxing the best from his players. This has been done on a mere shoe-string budget. Certainly, the calibre of player at Manchester United is on a different level than at Everton, not to mention the sheer size of the club, with full respect to Everton. It will undoubtedly be daunting at first, but he will have Ferguson as counsel and the Manchester United fans are generally content with the appointment.
Moyes will look to keep Rooney at the club, with the issue top of his agenda as soon as he takes over. Given that there are not many options on the table for Rooney, it is this writer's opinion that he will stay. Bayern Munich have ruled themselves out of a bid, whereas other top clubs do not seem interested in a player who is generally seen as past his best and expensive at 40 million pounds ($60 billion). Additionally, it has been made clear from inside Old Trafford that the incoming manager will have a sizeable budget for new players. The club already boasts the best striker in the Premier League, Robin van Persie. If they could add even one marquee signing, such as Gareth Bale, it would be foolhardy to bet against United repeating the success of this season, and, perhaps even going further in Europe and other competitions.
The argument is that United may not be so fearsome without Ferguson at the helm, but the club's two closest rivals, Manchester City and Chelsea, are also changing managers this close season. Surely if the argument stands that United may not be able to retain their dominance because of a change of manager, Chelsea and Manchester City are also vulnerable for the very same reason.
Share price drop
The drop in share price from over $19 on May 3 to the current price of $17.76 was largely a panic response. The price may fall further over the next two or three months as there will be uncertainty until the new season kicks off. However, the club has made a sound decision in bringing in a young, hungry, tactically astute manager. Given that there is a very good squad of players at Moyes' disposal and that he will be given money to strengthen further, it may prove a regrettable decision to sell MANU. The stock may fall further in the next few weeks, though, given United's formidable financial outlook for the next few years, it is highly likely that it will climb again and we may even see a dividend after a few seasons. With the club constantly finding new sources of commercial revenue, it will likely increase in value from its current value around the $3 billion mark.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.