Soccer Team Barcelona Wins Bond Waiver to Help Fix Finances

FC Barcelona noteholders agreed to relax some debt terms, granting a measure of relief to the Spanish soccer giant as it grapples with a collapse in revenues caused by the pandemic.

A group of European investors in its 200 million euros ($242 million) of senior notes will permit the club to remove limits on indebtedness and financial expenses, Barcelona’s press office said in an emailed response to questions.

The decision provides Barcelona with some breathing space after pandemic lockdowns shut down the flow of revenue from match ticket sales. The club, laboring under a 488 million-euro net debt pile, ran up nearly 100 million euros of losses last year.

The financial woes facing the Catalan sporting icon were a big reason why it enthusiastically backed a bid unveiled earlier this month to create a Super League of elite European clubs.

The project, which would have provided member teams with guaranteed revenues and a generous joining bonus, collapsed withing 48 hours of its launch amid withering criticism from politicians, players and fans.

Barcelona had disclosed that it was in talks with European noteholders when it published its annual financial report in late January. It said then that it already had received waivers from U.S. holders of the debt.

In 2018, the club issued two series of five-year notes for a combined 140 million euros, paying 2% interest. In 2019 it raised a further 60 million euros with two further offerings with interest at 2.5%.

Star Players

Barcelona’s finances have deteriorated in recent years as costs for hiring star players and other expenses piled up. Its debt burden also has wider implications for the wider sphere of European soccer.

As of last June, the club owed 126 million euros in short-term debt to teams including FC Girondins de Bordeaux and Liverpool FC. It had a further 197 million euros in long-term debt to other clubs.

In March, Joan Laporta was elected president of Barcelona, in part on a platform to clean up the club’s finances. Laporta was previously president of the club between 2003 and 2010.

As part of its strategy to raise cash, the club earlier this year looked to sell a stake in a unit including digital assets, worldwide football academies, sports knowledge group and merchandising businesses. Teasers for the stake sale were sent to potential investors by the previous club administration, and new management hasn’t yet signaled publicly whether it will continue with the plan.

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