Goals scores with £2.8m fund raising as profits dip

GOALS Soccer Centres, the five-a-side football pitch operator, has raised £2.8 million from shareholders to strengthen its balance sheet after its first-half profits were hit by costs related to a failed takeover bid from a Canadian pension fund.

The East Kilbride-based firm said it had placed just over 2.4 million new shares at 115p each as it set itself a target of trimming its debt pile from £53.9m to £40m by the end of 2014.

Simon French, an analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: “Shareholders may feel a bit miffed at being asked to subscribe to the proposed placing at 115p per share having rejected a 144p per share bid just weeks ago.”

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However, managing director Keith Rogers told The Scotsman that the placing had seen a “very strong” take-up.

In a surprise move last month, shareholders narrowly rejected a £73.1m offer from Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, owner of National Lottery operator Camelot, despite Goals’ executive team giving their backing for the deal.

Rogers said: “I’m pretty philosophical about these things. It’s nothing to be disheartened about – we just get our heads down and get on with things. It’s still a great business and I take it as a vote of support that the shareholders wanted to remain invested in the business.”

Yesterday, the firm said costs associated with the bid, along with its successful appeal against VAT charges on pitch bookings, had cost it £1.35m.

It has also written off £2m of development costs after deciding to switch to a modular system for new sites to speed up the construction process. As a result, pre-tax profits fell to £1.6m for the six months to 30 June, down from £4m a year earlier, on sales up 11 per cent to £16.3m.

Earlier this month, Goals successfully challenged an HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) ruling that said it would have to charge VAT on block bookings for its football leagues. The victory boosted pre-tax profit by £500,000 during the first half.

Rogers said he was glad to put the distractions behind him and focus on the business, which he said has been performing well “despite us spinning a few plates”.

He added: “We didn’t know what to expect from the Olympics, because we’d never experienced one in the UK before, but I think we got a small boost from it as very few sports are as accessible as small-sided football.”

Its first modular build site opened in Chester earlier this year, and Rogers said research had shown it was proving popular among customers.

He said the system is 35 per cent cheaper and quicker that traditional construction techniques, and all new sites will be built in this way. The firm has more than 40 sites in the pipeline and plans to open two centres over the coming two years. Goals currently runs 43 sites across the UK and one in Los Angeles, and trading since June was described as “encouraging” despite the recent run of poor weather.

Rogers said: “The rain doesn’t put people off. All our centres are outdoors, and while people don’t mind playing outside in the winter we’ve found they don’t enjoy playing indoors in the summer, so on balance an outdoor facility is the better way to go.”