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Goals uses defensive tactic to tackle debt

Goals Soccer Centres is postponing building any new five-a-side football sites to focus on reducing its debt.

NET RETURNS: Goals Soccer Centres, headed by Keith Rogers, will focus on improving its existing portfolio.
NET RETURNS: Goals Soccer Centres, headed by Keith Rogers, will focus on improving its existing portfolio.

The East Kilbride business – subject of a failed £73 million takeover by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan in August – said it retains a pipeline of around 40 locations with analysts predicting no additional centres will open until the second half of 2014.

Goals, headed by Keith Rogers, said it had opened eight UK sites over the past two years, plus one in Los Angeles in the US.

Instead of expanding that presence further, it intends to focus on improving its existing portfolio of 44 centres.

A senior regional manager has been appointed to improve standards while there is to be further investment in staff training.

In a trading update for 2012, the company said net bank debt had been reduced from £54m at the mid-point of the year to £50m by the end.

Overall sales were said to have increased 6% from £30.4 million to £32m with like-for-like figures rising 2% mainly thanks to Goals winning an appeal on Her Majesty's Revenue and Custom's decision to charge VAT on income from football leagues.

Goals also highlighted an exceptional charge in the update with a £2m impairment cost on the value of its LA site.

It also intends to invest in its social media presence and appoint a head of e-commerce in the first half of the year. That will result in some of the company's IT infrastructure becoming redundant, but the move should eventually reduce costs by around £1.8m.

Goals said: "While 2013 looks likely to be another challenging year for the UK consumer, Goals operates in a resilient market place with a favourable price point and a market-leading position.

"This provides the necessary scale to cope with any challenges ahead and the board remains confident of continued progress."

In a separate announcement Goals said AG Barr's finance director Alex Short will join the board as a non-executive director.

Mr Short said: "Goals is another great Scottish success story with a truly national brand.

"It has a clear strategy in place with an exciting future and I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to it."

A further non-executive is being sought and a number of candidates have been interviewed.

Analysts at Canaccord Genuity predicted pre-tax profits at Goals will be around £9.5m in 2012, which would be ahead of the £9.2m reported in 2011.

They added the company had posted a "commendable performance after the distractions of the Euros, Olympics and failed [takeover] bid during the year."

Meanwhile, Sahill Shan, from N+1 Singer, believes Goals is in a strong position but would like to see a more pro-active approach on improving the core football business.

He said: "Ultimately the broad strategic focus towards focusing fully on the existing portfolio and simultaneously de-leveraging finds favour with us. As does news of Alex Short joining as a non-exec given his strong credentials and track record.

"To our mind the building blocks are in place to rebuild shareholder value."

Shares in Goals were down 0.5p at 124.5p.

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