CELTIC were today virtually a debt-free club after the latest set of impressive financial figures to come out of Parkhead.

At a time when clubs around the game are struggling, the interim figures to December 31, 2008, show that the SPL champions have cut their debts from £3.6million to just £970,000.

Profits for the period were just under £8.5m and clearly yet more good housekeeping from chief executive Peter Lawwell and the board has Celtic well placed for any fall-out from the credit crunch.

INTERIM RESULTS FOR THE SIX MONTHS TO 31 DECEMBER 2008 Financial Highlights: *Turnover increased by 10.3% to £46.78m.

*Operating expenses increased by 4.9% to £34.10m.

*Profit from operations of £12.68m (2007: £9.92m).

*Profit before taxation of £8.36m (2007: £10.07m).

*Period end net bank debt of £0.97m (2007: £3.63m).

*Investment in players of £7.01m (2007: £1.04m).

CHAIRMAN JONH REID'S STATEMENT The challenge facing us in the last six months has been to build upon the success of last year amidst the most difficult economic environment that many of us have ever experienced. Far larger organisations than ours have fallen spectacularly from world-leading positions to oblivion or reliance on public funding.

Despite this backdrop, I am pleased to be able to six-month period to 31 December, 2008. This is a testimony to the hard work and committed support of everyone associated with Celtic; from the Board to the backroom, through management and players, from shareholders to supporters. I want to start by recording my thanks to all of you.

As Scotland's sole representative in the group stages of the Uefa Champions League this season, our revenues for the first six months of this financial year increased by £4.35m, 10.3%, over the same period last year, to £46.78m.

Increased pre-season match fees and merchandising sales also contributed to the uplift in revenue, even although we played 15 home games in the period rather than the 16 of last season. The importance of European football has never been more obvious.

Because of your support, our merchandising revenues rose by 6.4% to £10.89m despite the very challenging environment.

The number of season tickets holders is this year at an all-time high, with more concessionary tickets sold than ever before, a remarkable achievement in difficult times.

Though our numbers are up, the income generated is down as a result of our intentional decision to freeze season ticket prices last year and to introduce new, further concession tickets to encourage a new generation of younger fans and to give something back to our fans to reflect our strong financial results in the previous year.

Despite the resultant loss of potential revenue in the short-term, we believe that by doing so we have taken the right decision for our supporters and Celtic's longer-term future.

Our operating expenses also rose over last year by £1.59m to £34.10m, a rise mainly driven by additional wage costs following the changes made to the first team during the summer of 2008. Samaras, Maloney, Loovens, McCourt and Crosas all joined us on permanent contracts, with our investment in the first-team squad in the period reaching just over £7m compared with £1.04m the previous year.

At £8.36m our retained profit for the six months is £1.70m down on last year's interim figure reflecting exceptional operating expenses not incurred last time, an increase in amortisation following the increased investment in the playing squad and reduced proceeds from player trading.

Our net bank debt of £0.97m at the end of the half year compares favourably against last year's £3.63m reflecting the strong trading performance.

Although the coming, second half of the year with fewer home games to play and no further European football will generate less revenue than the first - the normal pattern has been for full year profits to be less than the interims - our midway position nevertheless allowed resources to be made available during the recent transfer window as they have been in past years.

However, general market conditions and particular circumstances curtailed the product of those endeavours this year.

In the past we have been criticised, and indeed on occasions pilloried, for adopting a careful and business-like approach. We know well that we are much more than just a business, and for many of us supporting Celtic is a way of life.

The intense and perfectly understandable hunger for immediate football success that this fuels must always be balanced with the need to ensure that the underlying financial model - and the football success dependent upon it - can be sustained, not just in one year, but year after year.

Others in football and elsewhere are finding out just how difficult achieving and maintaining that balance can be.

We know from experience that sound finances are necessary for football success, and vice-versa. While nothing can ever be guaranteed, we have managed to achieve this balance in recent times.

Success has been delivered consistently on the football field in the last few years, and our financial model is proving to be reasonably resilient.

But football is not immune to wider social changes and we cannot expect not to be affected at some point by the recessionary forces in the wider economy. Therefore we cannot afford to be the least bit complacent and we do not underestimate the challenges that will face us later in the year in both football and in financial terms.

But at this stage of the year our finances are sound, we have everything to play for in the league and cups, our supporters are strong and our commitment to deliver success remains undiminished.'