Highbury flats swell Arsenal coffers

LONDON - Arsenal have posted a 37 percent increase in full-year pretax profit, boosted by a strong showing in cup competitions and property sales.

Last season the club finished fourth in the English Premier League and made the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup.

In July, U.S. sports tycoon Stan Kroenke increased his stake in Arsenal to 28.58 percent, leapfrogging Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov as the club's largest shareholder.

Arsenal made a record pretax profit of 35.2 million pounds in the year to May 31 2009, up from 25.7 million pounds in the previous year, on revenue up 40 percent to 313.3 million pounds. "The group's profitability is important because it is a by-product of running the club as a solvent and successful business, which in turn allows us to maximise the level of investment in the playing staff," said chairman Peter Hill-Wood.

Underlying operating profit in the football business rose 5 percent to 62.7 million pounds, while the sale of 208 private apartments built on the site of the club's former Highbury stadium boosted operating profit from property activities to 7.8 million pounds.

The club, which moved to the Emirates Stadium in 2006, said that of 655 apartments in the Highbury Square development, sales have now completed on 445 units.

The balance of the bank loan used to fund the project has been reduced to 47 million pounds and the loan has been refinanced and extended to December 2010.