Celtic net financing cost £201k (interest paid minus interest earned), Newco net finance cost £2.997m, that’s 6.25% of their income paying for previous season’s spend. This percentage is a key metric for distressed companies. David Murray’s Rangers paid 7.7% of their income in finance costs 19 years ago. That was clearly unsustainable. Rangers subsequently converted loans into shares (sound familiar) but were unable to apply a tourniquet on the losses, which eventually led to liquidation. Newco are walking the same path.
Celtic and Newco both had a reduction in income, minus the reduction in costs due to the lack of fans, of around £9m. Newco state this net loss at “over £10m”, which gives an indication of what they will present in reporting to Uefa.
If we correct the reported losses for the 2020-21 exceptional items, Celtic’s loss is reduced to £2.3m, Newco’s to £14.5m. The sale of Bayo and Hendry more than covered that trend loss for Celtic, leaving income from the sale of Edouard, Ajer and Hendry for new signings. Newco’s entire transfer income was £1.7m. They pay 75% more than this in interest.
When I started writing here about Asset Management, the moans came back about becoming ‘a selling club’. If you are not selling players at the right time, for the right fee, something else is picking up the pain and you are underachieving.
Signing the finished article is more likely to help you succeed in the short term (although loanee Shane Duffy was 28 when he arrived), but the return on your investment from players purchased at that age is likely to be low. They have been around long enough for their perceived values to be fixed. When performances drop, you cannot move them on at a profit and need to cut elsewhere to replace them.
Sales from a hugely underperforming Celtic squad took in £34m transfer fees this summer. 20 times more than Newco’s £1.7m from a title winning squad. And let’s be clear: before the summer they acknowledged they needed to sell, an admission their accounts confirm.
There is a trade-off: the instant hit or a more strategic play. Strategic players win more often, that £34m has been transformational to what Celtic have been able to do this season.
How much of your income to pay to service debts inhibits what you can spend going forward. Not all spending is equal. Some will perform long-term, providing reinvestment funds after the player has moved on. Others not so much (we have been there, think of the £6m signings of Sutton, Hartson and Lennon and the chasm when they aged).
Dave King clearly felt slighted by the tone of Newco’s accounts and responded in The Herald today, when he confirmed his £5m loan, plus £832k interest, had been repaid a little over a week ago. There was an insistence that despite King, Douglas Park and others (let’s call them the Concert Party) saying they would provide interest free loans to the club without taking security, the South African authorities would only allow him to give Newco loans if they were at a commercial rate of interest – 8%, if you don’t mind.
I have no reference point for this kind of insistence. He does not elaborate on what “authorities” we are talking about, but he has a bit of form in South African, so is perhaps wise to not be too specific and do what he is told. He also reiterated his pleasure that “the authorities” allowed him to make the loans unsecured. They sure are involved authorities.
The secured, interest paying, loans from others in the Concert Party clearly irk King, always a man of his word.