BRIDGING LOAN REFINANCED
We would like to update fans on the financial situation and deliver the very good news that the initial April 2022 refinancing target has been met. At the end of April, the MSP loan that was secured against the stadium will be repaid which means the club will be free of any secured debt. This is down to the incredible efforts of Plough Lane Bond investors, a further sale of equity and a short-term loan from Cherry Red Records.
PLOUGH LANE BOND SUCCESS – SCHEME STILL OPEN
More than £3.6m has been brought in through Plough Lane Bond 2 this year at an average interest rate of 6%. The scheme will remain open. In total this means more than £9m has been invested in Plough Lane Bonds, with the total interest rate under 4%. This is a phenomenal achievement that saves the club more than half a million pounds a year in interest payments compared to a comparable commercial loan agreement. Many thanks to all of our fans for their investment and their support of this scheme.
In order to underpin the conclusion of the bridging loan with MSP, the club and Trust are grateful to Iain McNay and Cherry Red Records for providing a short-term loan facility of up to £500,000. As plc chair, Iain has been very keen to ensure that we repay the MSP loan in full so that the stadium is no longer given as security and the cost of our funding reduces. With the Plough Lane Bond coming close to the total of the MSP loan, Cherry Red Records offered to bridge the gap and lend £500,000 to allow the club to repay in full the loan. This unsecured loan is relatively short term, and the club is aiming to repay Iain as new funding is secured over the course of the next few months. We would like to thank Iain and Cherry Red Records for their ongoing support.
EQUITY INVESTMENT FROM ANANTH S. NATHAN
We are also pleased to announce further equity investment from Ananth S. Nathan. Ananth is a Vice-President of the club who invested £250,000 in the original Seedrs round that contributed to the building of Plough Lane. The club has maintained a close relationship with Ananth over the last few years and we are in the process of completing a further investment of £750,000 in the club this month, which will take his overall investment to £1 million. You will see the formal steps that the Dons Trust and AFCW PLC will be taking over the next few weeks to finalise that investment and issue shares to Ananth. Ananth is based in Malaysia and is keen to work with our club in developing commercial opportunities in his region and beyond. In recognition of his substantial investment and our expectations of an ongoing commercial partnership, Ananth will use the title “International President”. Ananth will be attending the sponsors dinner this week and will be at the game against Accrington on Saturday. Please do take the opportunity to welcome him.
FURTHER SOURCES OF FUNDING
We have had many conversations with banks and other commercial lenders as part of our refinancing efforts. Whilst we have been able to refinance the bridging loan without a commercial agreement at this time, it has also been clear that many lenders will want to see evidence of one or more years’ trading at our new stadium in order to enter into deals. We aim to continue to develop these relationships so that commercial lending can become part of our mix of funding in future.
Under the current structure and utilising the remaining equity headroom available – there remains just under £2m of potential share capital available. We have had conversations with several potential investors and progressed through lengthy multi-stage processes with three individuals in particular, but no further equity deal has yet been struck. We will continue our discussions in this area and are open to any further possibilities in this area.
We will also focus now on the next five years and the club’s profitability at Plough Lane, as well as planning ahead for the refinancing that will fall due in 2025 when the first tranche of Plough Lane Bonds become redeemable. We are also continuing to work with a number of potential partners to explore routes for further capital investment in the final stages of the stadium fit out, especially on the third floor.
Full financial accounts will follow from the club after the end of the season and the conclusion of our financial year in June 2022. The club is expecting to show a pre-EBITDA profit for the first time in several years and we look forward to higher non-matchday income in the future as revenue streams come online and increase following the opening of the stadium. Debt servicing will continue to be an important part of our financial planning.
We would like to thank all Trust and plc board members, members of the finance committee and club financial controller Tom Mak for all their work to pass this latest refinancing hurdle and pay tribute again to the fantastic support of our fans, members and investors for continuing to support the Trust and club’s fund-raising and investment initiatives. The Bond scheme will remain open and each further investment in it continues to help the club’s long-term financial planning.