April 21, 2021

LaLiga: Barça is mortgaged with US investment funds | sports

LaLiga: Barça is mortgaged with US investment funds | sports

The United States gains weight in the day to day FC Barcelona. It began a few years ago with the tours of friendly matches, as other European clubs already did. This season opened the door to play the first official game of LaLiga outside of Spain – against Girona -, in an attempt aborted by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). But last summer, the club that presides Josep Maria Bartomeu He took another step unknown in European football: he went to American investment funds in search of loans. And got 140 million euros, as admitted yesterday to EL PAÍS sources Barca club after being asked.

In favor of Barça has played the fact that American investors understand the sports business as a way of investment and have extensive experience in financing, for example, sports stadiums. The placement has been made without any debt rating entity having given a rating to the club and without having to present guarantees in case the payment commitments are not fulfilled.

Barcelona argues that going to the North American markets does not respond to any need for cash and argues that it has been six consecutive years earning money. But the indebtedness that will be offered by Pricoa Capital Group, belonging to the American insurance giant Prudential, and Barings will suppose a ball of oxygen to the club in case of needs of signings and a relief for the way in which that money should return. You will not have to do it for another five years. Then you must pay out all that amount with interest for the entire period that financial sources are around 1.8% and that the club's management says it is below that rate.

Barings left the club 50 million euros. And the placement of Pricoa debt was 90 million euros, although that figure was expected to reach 130 million euros. But that amount fell apart after the assembly of delegates of the club held last October knocked down the will of the board of directors to remove an article from the Barcelona statutes, which limits the amount of the budget to 10% of the club's budget. debt securities. The Barcelona closed last year with revenues of 914 million euros, so the figure is adjusted to the margins provided by the rule of the entity. Barça allocates a good part of its income to cover the wage bill. In fact, it is the first club that exceeds 500 million for the salaries of footballers.

The Catalan club also claims that it is far from the second security parameter enabled by the statutory route, which prevents the net debt can exceed twice the gross operating profit (Ebitda). The Ebitda of the club was last year of 177 million euros and the board defends that in the balance sheet of the first half of the year that will be presented to LaLiga will account for a net debt of 160 million euros, although this was 120 million in June. Sources of the azulgrana surroundings assure, nevertheless, that the levels of real indebtedness are superiors. Víctor Font, candidate for the presidency of the club, recently denounced, for example, that this debt could be raised to 200 million euros, while the figure would be higher if other concepts were taken into account.

Financial sources consulted by this newspaper had long suspected that the club was looking for ways of financing extrabanking, by not using the credit policies that had contracted as in other exercises. Experts in sport management explain that Barcelona is also introducing new features in the way of paying the signings, forcing the selling clubs to change their formula. Both in the case of Coutinho and Arthur, the entity has chosen to pay the clubs of origin (Liverpool and Gremio de Porto Alegre) in deferred payments in five years, the period considered a player's redemption.

Repeat the strategy

Barça does not rule out other private placements such as the one made in August, but says its will is to complement the resources coming from funds with those of traditional, local and international banks. The good conditions with which he has obtained resources in the United States -five years without having to return money and competitive interest rates-, however, could help him to obtain cheaper money in the future.

The Barça entity denies that the 140 million euros will serve, at the moment, to finance the Espai Barça, the urban complex with which the club intends to rejuvenate and expand the Camp Nou and completely reform the surroundings of its stadium. That project, in which another American actor, the investment bank Goldman Sachs, has taken a leading role, will be financed with the national and international bank competition that is already being probed, although the board maintains that its weight will be much lower than initially. provided.

If the total cost of Espai Barça was estimated at a total of 600 million euros, it was planned to finance it in thirds. Some 200 million would come from the commercial brand that gives the Camp Nou its name; a similar figure would come hand in hand with the resources that Espai Barça would generate. And the last part would be in the hands of bank financing. But Goldman Sachs has updated the estimates that were prepared in 2012 and the club is more optimistic, to the point that it considers that among the so-called naming rights of the field (name the stadium) and the resources generated by the new spaces could be paid to pay for the entire project.

The reality, however, is that the urban planning project of Barcelona continues to accumulate delays. It is expected that the remodeling and expansion of the Camp Nou will not be ready until 2023, one year later than planned according to the latest plans. The club maintains that the project, which includes the new Camp Nou, the construction of a new sports hall and the Johan Cruyff stadium in the Sports City of Sant Joan Despí to replace the current Miniestadi, "can be done in a comfortable way".

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