Even in discussions with shareholders, its inevitably the sporting side of things that comes to the fore at the moment: Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund sat down with shareholders on Monday and enjoyed a day of great harmony. Speeches by Hans-Joachim Watzke (chief executive officer) and Thomas Treß (managing director) were greeted with large-scale applause. The club (the only one in German football registered on the stock market) once more paid out a divided to its shareholders this year.

''It feels wonderful to be able to stand together now in this moment as Bundesliga league leaders. But knowing as I do how quickly things can change in football, it's important to stress that the right thing to do is keep our feet on the ground,'' said Hans-Joachim Watzke at the annual general meeting of Borussia Dortmund GmbH & Co. KgaA held in Westphalia hall 3b. ''Our task now is to stay focused and ensure we don't lose any sharpness!'' added Watzke.

Speaking in front of over 1000 shareholders (representatives accounting for around 65 percent of the club's registered share capital were present on the day), Watzke offered his expressed thanks to new head coach Lucien Favre and his team. Favre, team captain Marco Reus, left-back Marcel Schmelzer and veteran defender Lukasz Piszczek all entered the venue at 11.17 to a spontaneous chorus of applause, with many shareholders rising to their feet to show their appreciation.

Despite the exceptional performances currently being achieved out on the pitch, Watzke thought it important to take a look back to focus on and analyse the previous season, which was considered disappointing from a sporting perspective: ''We sat down after last season and decided to hire Sebastian Kehl as head of the licensed player division as well as Matthias Sammer as an external advisor. Both of them are first class professionals who are able to drive us forward with their unique style, which is both constructive and controversial and is always characterised by the passion and pleasure they take from their work. Individual egos have been placed in the back-seat, and that's definitely another reason as to why everything is going so well for us right now.''

''BVB has the personnel it needs for the future,'' said Watzke. ''Nobody has any reason to worry about upheavel. We have such a young, valuable and dynamic stream of talent, which means there's no chance of a vacuum forming,'' said the CEO, who then went on to present his strategic outlook for the future: ''We've worked with the consultancy agency McKinsey to produce a growth strategy. By 2025, we are aiming for an annual turnover of 500 million euros excluding transfer fees. You are all invited to join us in this journey. This growth will be driven by sponsorship, increased international exposure and digitalisation. To take sponsorship as an example, I can tell you that there's currently enormous interest in Borussia Dortmund!''

Watzke also made it clear that the club must not lose touch with its core fan-base in its pursuit of economic performance. ''We need to have a finely tuned sense of when the limits of commercialisation have been reached, and should this be the case then we must know how to put the brakes on.'' He then went on to speak out against ticket price rises over the rate of inflation and stressed the important social and political dimension of the club. Just days before, the club took an unequivocal stand against racism, discrimination and intolerance at its annual members' meeting. The proposal that a fan centre should be established in the vicinity of Signal Iduna Park in order to deepen engagement with the fan base was met with large-scale approval by the shareholders.

Managing director Thomas Treß then gave an overview of the figures published back in August. The club achieved the highest turnover in its history, with a total of 536 million euros (compared to 405.7 million euros the previous year), while the club's operating earnings before interest, tax and depreciation (EBITDA) totalled 126.6 million euros (compared to 74 million euros the previous year). All of this goes to show how well-positioned the club is financially. In a financial year in which 41.5 percent of total turnover came from transfer fees, Treß was keen to point out that ''Cashflow from operating activities amounted to 158.36 million euros.'' This translates to around 47 million more than in the previous year.

According to Treß, the net asset value of Borussia Dortmund GmbH & Co. KgaA ''is conservatively valued at about 1.1 billion.'' KPMG also arrived at a ''valuation of between 1 billion and 1.1 billion.'' This value corresponds to a share price of €11.96. ''We're not quite where we want to be just yet,'' said Treß: ''But you will all have noticed how our share price has more than quadrupled since 2005 and how it's gone up by as much as 40 percent since our last general meeting. We're continuing to register a strong level of growth.''

BVB is paying its shareholders a dividend of €0.06 per share (a 5.5 million euro payout in total) for the 2016/17 financial year. Formal approval of the general partner and the supervisory board then followed, with an overwhelming majority of 99.97 percent voting in favour. (sf)