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Wed 7th Jun 2017 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Thwaites evolves by making investments in larger managed pubs, absorbs ‘significant’ NLW costs: North west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites has said it has evolved its business in the year to 31 March 2017 by making investments in larger managed pubs, many of which have bedrooms or have had bedrooms added. The company said it had managed to absorb the cost impact of the National Living Wage, which was “significant”, particularly in the hotel business. It added it had also made adjustments to its pay scales that saw its employees paid more than the National Minimum Wage. In its annual report, Thwaites said last year and the current one would see “significant investment” as it sought to reinvest the £25.1m sale proceeds from the beer company to Marston’s in 2015. During the period, the company sold 16 pubs as it looked to dispose of “poorer-quality properties to focus on creating sustainable, long-term businesses with multiple income streams and strong food offerings”. In March it acquired the 56-bedroom Middletons Hotel in York, while in April it acquired the 29-bedroom Langdale Chase Hotel on the banks of Lake Windermere. Meanwhile, a new 54-bedroom lodge adjoining the Parsons Collar pub in Fareham, Hampshire, adjacent to the Solent Hotel & Spa, is due to open this month. In November, the company launched Grill And Grain At The Boatyard, near Blackburn, a managed pub with a micro-brewery that “traded very successfully” until a fire broke out in March. Meanwhile, work has started on a £6m-plus project on the Beverley Arms in East Yorkshire, which when completed next April will have 38 bedrooms, a restaurant and pub. Chairman Ann Yerburgh said: “We continue to look for new properties to acquire, although with the number of projects and level of investment currently in hand we will be selective.” Turnover from continued operations increased by 4% to £84.4m. Pre-tax profit was up 19% to £5.7m, compared with £4.8m the year before. Group Ebitda increased to £18.9m, compared with £18.4m the year before. Average Ebitda per pub increased during the year by 6%. The group has £45m of long-term debt, £5m of bank loans, and cash balances of £2.4m at 31 March 2017. During the year, the group put in place new three-year bank facilities of £30m to meet the requirements of its capital investment plans.

Industry News:

Propel Multi-Club summer conference open for bookings, two free places for operators: The Propel Multi-Club summer conference and party is now open for bookings. The event, which takes place on Thursday, 6 July at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40, will also involve the Propel summer party in the evening. Operators can claim two free places by emailing Jo Charity on jo.charity@propelinfo.com. The speaker line-up for the morning session is NPD Group UK foodservice director Cyril Lavenant, Morar Consulting chief executive Roger Perowne, David Bruce, co-founder of Firkin Pubs, The Capital Pub Company and The City Pub companies and currently chairman of The West Berkshire Brewery, and Ali Khan and Samrien Hussain, who operate escape rooms business Tick Tock Unlocked. Speaking after lunch are Marston’s Revere Pub Company managing director Colin Sadler, The Breakfast Club co-founder Jonathan Arana-Morton, and Black and White Hospitality chief executive Nick Taplin. The final session features Tahola commercial director Simon Blackbourne, Mowgli owner Nisha Katona, Amber Taverns managing director James Baer, and Rupert Clevely, managing director of Ei Group’s managed expert joint venture Hippo Inns.

Multimillion-pound scheme in Swansea featuring new restaurants receives outline planning permission: Multimillion-pound plans featuring new restaurants that would “transform Swansea city centre into a top-class retail and leisure destination” have taken a major step forward. Swansea Council has approved an outline planning application for the Swansea Central development site made up of land north and south of Oystermouth Road. Plans for land south of Oystermouth Road, on the current LC car park, include a 3,500-capacity digital indoor arena and conference centre above a new multi-storey car park, as well as a hotel of up to 13 storeys. New shops, restaurants, cafes, landscaped public areas, a boutique cinema and more parking are among the plans for the former St David’s shopping centre site north of Oystermouth Road. Rivington Land is managing the development of the 125,000 square metre scheme for Swansea Council. A broad pedestrian bridge over Oystermouth Road is also planned to link the northern part of the development with the south. Rivington Land chief executive David Lewis said: “The Swansea Central scheme will considerably enhance the city centre’s shopping attraction, while also giving residents and visitors a much-improved dining, leisure and recreational experience. We’re continuing to press ahead with the development on the council’s behalf, with the aim of delivering the venue and hotel on the south site in 2020 and completing the whole development in 2022.”

Company News:

Online beer distributor EeBria reports record trading in May, to close £500,000 crowdfunding campaign on Friday: Online beer distributor EeBria, which hit its £500,000 fund-raising target on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube within hours of the campaign launch, has reported record trading in May with 31% month-on-month growth compared with April. The company, founded by David and Rachael Jackson and whose customers include BrewDog and Innis & Gunn, said it had seen the number of pubs on its books grow and the average monthly spend per pub hit its highest total to date. Eebria also said it would close its crowdfunding campaign on Friday (9 June) at 6pm. It is offering a 7.69% equity stake in return for the investment as it looks to expand and “further push” into the large pub companies. So far, 420 investors have pledged £641,590 and the largest investment to date is £200,000. The pitch states: “Investment is needed to capitalise on our position in craft beer distribution. Funds will be predominantly used for new hires and working capital, including an experienced sales-team hire to further our push into the largest pub companies. This round will help support this roll-out with the goal of becoming a global market place.” The company forecasts revenue of £732,631 this year, growing to £3,131,431 by the end of 2018, while Ebitda is expected to be minus £226,149 this year, increasing to £791,157 a year later. In 2015, Eebria raised £288,000 on crowdfunding platform Seedrs to fund expansion.

Abba star lodges plans to launch London restaurant: Abba star Bjorn Ulvaeus has lodged plans to launch a restaurant based on the Swedish band in London. Ulvaeus has applied for permission to build Mamma Mia! The Party – a Greek taverna-style restaurant where guests can eat while a show goes on around them – in Waterloo, reports the Evening Standard. The star opened a similar concept in Stockholm in 2015, which uses some of the songs from the hit Mamma Mia! musical but involves new characters and a different storyline. The full Abba four-piece reunited for the first time in eight years for the Stockholm launch. Ulvaeus previously said of his Stockholm venue: “At the end of each performance people stand up and sing and dance in the aisles. There’s a party mood. I always had a feeling that if people could have gone on to have a party they would.”

Brewhouse & Kitchen to open Nottingham site this month, 18th venue: Brewhouse & Kitchen, the brewpub business led by Kris Gumbrell and Simon Bunn, will open its latest venue in Nottingham this month, taking its estate to 18 sites. The venue will open on the site of the former Riverbank Bar & Kitchen in Trent Bridge on Sunday, 18 June with a micro-brewery as the centrepiece. As well as its own core brews and a number unique to the two-storey Nottingham site, the bar will offer Oranjeboom lager, Whitstable Bay Black Oyster Stout and Aspall Suffolk cider on draught. The decor features two rowing boats used as lighting features and painted washing machine drums turned into lampshades. The pub has been turned into an open-plan layout apart from a private dining room to the rear, while there is an indoor fire pit and another outdoors with large groups able to pre-book the space with two fridges eliminating trips to the bar. Brewhouse & Kitchen operations manager Daniel Kelly told the Nottingham Post: “We’re looking at 350 to 400 covers. It’s all open. A big part of what we do is about the atmosphere. It’s all very inviting and comfortable.” The company acquired the Riverbank Bar & Kitchen, popular for its cocktails and DJ sets, in January.

Revolution Bars Group trials new recruitment strategy: Revolution Bars Group is trialling a new recruitment strategy to increase areas of productivity within the business. “Situational Judgement Testing” is described as an industry-leading application method used to reduce the subconscious bias formed when looking through CVs. The test was created by Navreet Singh Bal, general manager of Revolution’s Stafford site, in an attempt to enhance the recruitment process of entry-level staff and reduce turnover at all the company’s sites. Revolution Bars Group stated: “Prior to sending over a CV, the applicants are asked a series of questions to gauge their level of commitment and understanding of the hospitality industry and allocated a score that is used to judge characteristics and behaviours, such as leadership, team engagement, organisation, ambition and customer focus. Those with an underachieving score are weeded out and those who prove successful are brought in for an interview. The bar group is currently running trials in ten sites nationwide and so far the results have proven correct when hiring. As a result, the conversion rate of interviews to hires has increased by roughly 30%. The next stage is to integrate the test on to the online system for each site and develop more questionnaires for different roles across the company.”

16 Hospitality opens fifth site: 16 Hospitality, the pub, bar, hotel and restaurant business run by Edward Barlow, has opened its fifth venue – in Stretton, near Warrington. The company has invested £1m to transform the former Hollow Tree pub, reopening it as The Partridge. The refurbishment of the pub, which 16 Hospitality acquired in September last year, included the addition of ten en-suite rooms. General manager Neal Thacker told the Warrington Guardian: “We are thrilled to have opened The Partridge and delighted to have had such a warm reception. The area is crying out for a pub like The Partridge, which offers tasty, wholesome dishes using the best local suppliers.” 16 Hospitality also operates The Swan in Tarporley and The Crown at Goostrey, both in Cheshire, and The White Eagle in Rhoscolyn and The Oyster Catcher in Rhosneigr, both on the island of Anglesey.

Hawkes launches London’s first ‘urban cidery’: Cider producer Hawkes has launched London’s first urban cidery – the Hawkes Cidery & Taproom – on the Bermondsey Beer Mile, just off Maltby Street Market, following substantial external investment in the brand. The new venue will also host a range of unique experiences, including exclusive cider-making workshops and tours with the company’s chief cider-maker; a small-batch, research and development range curated on-site with experimentation into unique blends and flavours, barrel-ageing cider and product innovation; and pairing draught ciders with stone-baked pizzas. Hawkes founder Simon Wright said: “Cider has spent too long in the background and that needs to end. In building London’s first urban cidery we’ve created a place where people can fully immerse themselves in the true potential of cider, sample our world-class liquids and learn how to make, taste and enjoy this wonderful drink. This is just the beginning and we look forward to welcoming the public to the Hawkes Cidery & Taproom to play their part in the cider revolution.” 

Coco di Mama founders step down: Daniel Land and Jeremy Sanders, co-founders of Coco di Mama, the London-based quick-service Italian food and coffee operator owned by Azzurri Group, have stepped down from the company. Land and Sanders launched Coco di Mama in 2011 in Fleet Street, with Azzurri Group acquiring the then six-strong brand in 2015. At the time, Azzurri Group said the deal was an “important step in our ambition to becoming the UK’s leading specialist in Italian cuisine”. Coco di Mama has now grown to 17 sites, with Land telling Propel last year the company was looking to “own the capital before considering regional expansion”. A spokeswoman for Land and Sanders said: “I can confirm Daniel and Jeremy are no longer involved in the day-to-day running of Coco di Mama. They will not make any further comment at this stage.” An Azzurri Group spokesman told Propel the company did not wish to comment.

Kent-based sparkling wine business proposes to raise £4.2m following sales and profit growth: Kent-based sparkling wine business Gusbourne has proposed to raise £4.2m after posting growth in sales and profit. The company reported sales increased 35% to £640,000 for the year ending 31 December 2016, compared with £473,000 the year before. Gross profit jumped 47% to £217,000, compared with £148,000 the previous year. Gusbourne is proposing to raise up to £4.2m through an open offer to provide the business with further capital for growth. The proceeds will be used for working capital, ongoing investment in the Gusbourne brand, and capital expenditure in line with the company's long-term strategic plan. Chairman Andrew Weeber described 2016 as “another successful year of growth and development for the company as we work towards our long-term goals”. He told Insider Media: “We remain dedicated to the production and sale of premium sparkling wines from grapes grown in our own vineyards and would like to thank customers and staff for their ongoing support.” Looking ahead, Weeber said Gusbourne’s trading in 2017 remained “in line with expectations”. He added that the growing season had started well, although there had been some minor frost damage to the company’s vines in Kent and West Sussex as a result of an unusually cold spell at the beginning of the season.

Anglo’s Mark Jarvis opens Mayfair bistro: Mark Jarvis, who operates British restaurant Anglo in Farringdon, has teamed up with Alex Harper, former chef at Michelin-starred The Harwood Arms, to launch a new London venture. Jarvis, former head chef at the Bingham and Le Manoir, and Harper have opened Neo Bistro in Woodstock Street, Mayfair, taking inspiration from Paris’ neo bistro movement. The venue has taken over The Woodstock Tavern, with a rotating menu featuring seasonal specials. Wine is from emerging regions and includes lesser-known grape varieties, alongside craft beer and cocktails, with front-of-house run by Anglo’s Nick Gilkinson. Counter-style seats on “butcher’s block” stools are kept free for walk-in guests at the bar, while banquette tables are available for reservations. Neo Bistro’s bare-brick walls have been punctuated with vintage posters and, as a nod to Anglo, a neon sign. Jarvis said: “Alex and I have worked in some great kitchens together over the years but to be doing things on our own terms is really rewarding.”

Not-for-profit organisation Food for Soul launches Earl’s Court community kitchen: Food for Soul, the not-for-profit organisation founded by chef Massimo Bottura, has partnered with London-based food waste charity The Felix Project to open its first UK project, in Earl’s Court. The joint venture sees community kitchen Refettorio Felix open in the St Cuthbert’s Centre replicating Food for Soul’s previous projects – in Milan at Expo 2015 and last year’s Rio Olympics. The community space has undergone a six-week makeover to serve meals created from surplus ingredients provided by The Felix Project. For 25 years, St Cuthbert’s has acted as a drop-in centre for vulnerable people, including rough sleepers and those with addiction and mental health issues, providing a subsidised lunch service, counselling, showers and clothes. Refettorio Felix at St Cuthbert’s provides an enhanced dining service, with monthly appearances by guest chefs who will include Claude Bosi, Monica Galetti and Oliver Peyton. Bottura, who cooked the first lunch on Monday (5 June), said: “Chefs have risen to celebrity heights. I believe we can reflect these lights to illuminate the most pressing issues facing society today. Cooking is a call to act.”

Cardiff city centre site housing Starbucks sells for £1.7m: A prime retail site in the centre of Cardiff that houses a Starbucks store has been sold for £1.7m. Atlantic Property Developments has acquired 4-6 Queen Street from an undisclosed private property company. Recently let to Starbucks on a new ten-year lease, the retail unit is in a prime location in the heart of the city, with nearby tenants including Primark, Marks & Spencer, and Waitrose. The three-storey building was recently refurbished, with the Starbucks store opening last month in a former Santander bank. It is the coffee chain’s 15th store in Cardiff, including three others in Queen Street. Ross Griffin, investment director of agent Savills, which advised Atlantic Property Developments on the deal, told Wales Online: “We are delighted to have secured the prime retail lot on Queen Street for our client. The property is in the heart of town, close to the main shopping centre and retail thoroughfare and as such benefits from high footfall all year round.” Atlantic Property Developments was founded by Peter Thomas, chairman of professional rugby club Cardiff Blues.

Former Noma chef to launch permanent site in St James’s Market next month for Nigerian pop-up Ikoyi: Former Noma chef Jeremy Chan is to open a permanent site in London next month for his Nigerian pop-up Ikoyi. Chan and business partner Iré Hassan-Odukale will open the restaurant in the St James’s Market development, off Regent Street, on Saturday, 15 July. Ikoyi is named after an affluent neighbourhood in Lagos, Nigeria, which is often referred to as “Africa’s most valuable real estate”. Starters will include rarebreed lamb ribs with relish, and octopus pepper soup with coastal herbs, while main courses will showcase dishes such as wild Nigerian tiger prawn with banga bisque and corn grits. Chan and Hassan-Odukale also plan to source a breed of four-horned lamb and line-caught fish, which would be cured and smoked. The drinks menu will include Nigerian Guinness, The Nudge reports. Other restaurants at St James’s Market include contemporary Nordic restaurant Aquavit, Salt Yard Group’s Veneta, Anzu from Japanese restaurant group Tonkotsu, and Duck & Waffle’s “local” concept.

Fat Lemon management buy out Jamie Oliver: The founders of production company Fat Lemon have completed a management buy out from the Jamie Oliver Group. Jane Bolton, managing director and executive producer, and executive producer Cabell Hopkins will lead the company independently as joint owners. The duo launched Fat Lemon in 2014, initially supporting TV chef Jamie Oliver’s commercial partnerships. Bolton told Campaign: “We will always be eternally grateful to Jamie for his support and belief in Fat Lemon but we felt it was the right time to break away and become masters of our own destiny. I don’t know if lemons can fly, but we’re ready to take the plunge.” Hopkins added: “It just felt like the right time. We have built a solid reputation by servicing our clients well and nurturing a small but potent roster of home-grown talent.”

Provenance Inns reports 3% like-for-like sales rise: Provenance Inns has reported a like-for-like sales increase of 3% for the year ending 28 August 2016. The company saw turnover rise 6.5% to £4,640,351 compared with £4,358,104 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The company made a pre-tax loss of £476,302, compared with a loss of £369,431 the previous year. Gross profit margin fell from 41.1% to 40.1%, largely because of the “increased costs of wages which resulted from the high turnover of staff”. Operating profit margin dropped from 5.0% to 2.4% due to the increased labour costs and higher levels of customer discounting. At the end of the period, the company operated five country inns in North Yorkshire, two of which have rooms. It also added an 11-bedroom lodge under a management contract. The company stated: “Our aim is to grow the core revenue streams through continued advertising, marketing and promotional activity. In addition, we are investing in the sites to add further capacity in terms of both covers and rooms. In parallel, we are looking to expand through acquisition when opportunities arise. We further aim to maximise current revenue streams by investing in both people and technology. While growing, the market is also very competitive. Recently, there have been a significant number of new openings in our operational area. In addition, there are also pressures from price-sensitive customers and supplier cost price inflation is leading to squeezed margins.” Last month, co-founder and managing director Michael Ibbotson resigned from the business, which will continue under the sole ownership of fellow co-founder Chris Blundell. Ibbotson is remaining with Provenance Inns in a consultancy role and is working with Blundell to identify a suitable candidate to take on the managing director role. Ibbotson will continue to own and run the Durham Ox in Crayke, which he acquired in 1999, and which will now once again trade as a standalone business independent of the Provenance Inns portfolio. Provenance Inns was founded in 2010 when Blundell, a former director of supermarket group Morrisons and a regular customer at the Durham Ox, went into partnership with Ibbotson to build a portfolio of hospitality businesses across North Yorkshire.

Domino’s Pizza opens latest dine-in restaurant, in Cleethorpes: Domino’s Pizza has opened its latest dine-in restaurant, in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. The company has opened the 35-seat venue in St Peter’s Avenue. Regional manager Ben Claxton told the Grimsby Telegraph: “The restaurant brings a different dimension to what is on offer in Cleethorpes and hopefully we can attract families to come and sit in to eat.” Domino’s launched its restaurant venture in 2013 but the Cleethorpes site is only its sixth to open in the UK.

Talash Hotels Group acquires tenth site: Talash Hotels Group has acquired a hotel in Wigan for its tenth site as part of plans to build a 20-strong portfolio by 2020. The Leamington Spa-headquartered hospitality group has bought the Mercure Wigan Oak with funding from Allied Irish Bank (GB). In addition to its 88 bedrooms, the hotel is a wedding-licensed venue with a restaurant, bar and eight meeting rooms. Talash Hotels Group was founded in 2007 by brothers Sanjay and Ravi Kathuria. Sanjay Kathuria told BDaily: “Mercure Wigan Oak has huge untapped potential. Our plan is to build the business further by investing in the hotel, particularly its conference and banqueting facilities to capitalise on an increasing demand for business and private functions in the area.” In January, the company acquired Stoke Rochford Hall, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, with the 96-bedroom Victorian mansion becoming the group’s flagship operation. Talash Hotels Group’s other sites are in Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, and the West Midlands.

Genting UK reports return to profit as turnover soars past £300m: Casino operator Genting UK, which owns Resorts World Birmingham and operates 44 casinos in the country, has reported a return to profit as turnover soared past the £300m mark. The company saw turnover increase to £319.7m for the year ending 31 December 2016, compared with £228.2m the previous year. It reported a pre-tax profit of £29.4m compared with a loss of £55.8m the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. The company stated: “In 2016 revenue increased by 232% over the prior year in the ‘high end’ division, which comprises four venues, and by 7% in the core division. Resorts World Birmingham completed its first full year of trading, generating revenues of £24.9m. Gross profit before exceptional items for the group was £26.0m, an increase of £78.0m over the prior year. Total number of casino attendances in the year increased by 6% to 4,412,000. Average casino spend per customer in the year increased by 28% to £69.23. This comprised a 200% increase to £584.90 in the ‘high end’ division, and a 6% increase to £52.60 elsewhere. The focus of the group over the coming year includes strengthening the group’s position in the core business segment and improving business efficiency. The group will also focus on growing business volumes at Resorts World Birmingham and continue to monitor its marketing strategies in the ‘high end’ segment.”

Cubitt House co-founder launches ‘butcher and grill’ concept in Marylebone: Cubitt House co-founder Barry Hirst has launched his first solo restaurant – “butcher and grill” concept Boxcar – in Marylebone. The concept features a grill restaurant, delicatessen and butcher’s shop within a terraced two-storey townhouse in New Quebec Street. The restaurant is spread over both floors with a patio and basement that doubles as a private dining room. The decor features exposed natural wood, copper accents and slate grey tiling in homage to traditional British butcher’s shops. The venue offers a simple menu of three dishes cooked on a charcoal grill – steak and chips, a burger, and a vegetarian option – with the drinks list featuring classic cocktails, wine and beer. The deli is open from 7am, offering rolls, pies and pastries for lunch or to take away and doubling as a store selling marinades, cheese and charcuterie. Breakfast dishes are also on offer, including a treacle-cured bacon sandwich and a breakfast doughnut, The Nudge reports. The butcher’s shop is also in the basement and will host regular masterclasses. Hirst launched central London gastro-pub operator Cubitt House with Stefan Turnbull in 2005, selling a majority stake in the business to a consortium of private investors in 2015.

Italian deli Unico to launch in London this month: The team behind Bologna-based gelateria brand Cremeria Funivia is to launch Italian delicatessen concept Unico in London this month. The venue will open in Pembridge Road, Notting Hill, on Monday, 26 June specialising in traditional gelato alongside authentic Italian coffee, cakes, pastries, vegan salads and sandwiches. Gelato will be made fresh on-site daily with cones, tubs, shakes and gelato cakes available to eat in-store or take away. Flavours will include due torri (mascarpone with chocolate and hazelnut sauce), cremino (white chocolate infused with hazelnut) and Notting Hill (Fior di Bufala gelato topped with aceto balsamico di Modena). Unico’s website says the company is opening other London sites – in Bromley, Fulham, Holland Park and St John’s Wood.

InterQuest Group rejects Luke Johnson-backed takeover bid: Specialist IT recruitment company InterQuest Group, which operates from eight offices in the UK, has turned down a second takeover bid from its management team and serial investor Luke Johnson. Chisbridge is a newly formed company created by InterQuest chairman Gary Ashworth, chief executive Chris Eldridge and chief financial officer David Bygrave for the purposes of making an offer to acquire the group. The business, which is also owned by Johnson, has submitted a second offer to acquire InterQuest for a price of 42 pence per share. The move comes after an identical bid was rejected by independent directors Paul Frew and David Higgins last month. Higgins, who is being advised by Panmure Gordon, told Insider Media the offer “materially undervalued the company and its prospects”. He said he would write to InterQuest shareholders by Thursday, 15 June to explain the principal reasons why they should reject the offer. InterQuest operates from three offices in London, with others in Manchester, Harrogate, Berkhamsted, Brighton and Tunbridge Wells.

Butcombe Brewing Co offers its tenants subsidised BII membership: Brewer and operator Butcombe Brewing Co, owned by Liberation Group, is to offer all its pub tenants and lessees subsidised annual membership of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII). Butcombe has negotiated BII membership to be supplied initially to all its UK tenants with the view to roll-out membership to the Liberation Group’s pubs in the Channel Islands. Butcombe said BII membership would provide its tenants with additional expert and independent business advice, as well as 24-hour HR and general legal support. The tenants would also have access to the BII’s network of partners, which could provide significant savings on products such as insurance, energy bills and credit/debit card machines. The BII will also allow Butcombe tenants to access an employment contracts builder, business calculators and planning tools, a food app and an eLearning platform. Butcombe Brewing Co managing director of UK pubs Jayson Perfect said: “By providing our tenants and lessees with subsidised membership of the BII, we can ensure they receive independent professional advice and assistance when they need it. Providing support to our tenants is very important to us and we felt the BII provided an additional valuable service that would enable and help our tenants to build better businesses.” Liberation Group currently has 27 pubs in its Butcombe estate. In March, chief executive Mark Crowther said the company had ambitions to “more than double that with a target eventually of 200 across a broad geography”.

Domino’s Pizza Poland raises £5.2m with new share placing: Domino’s Pizza Poland has placed 12,200,000 new shares in the company at a price of 43p each to raise a total of £5,246,000 for expansion and extra marketing. The placing shares represent about 8.2% of the company’s issued ordinary share capital as enlarged by the issue of the shares. Four non-executive directors have agreed to subscribe, in aggregate, to 510,000 new shares. Hargreave Hale, a substantial shareholder in the company, has agreed to subscribe for 1,162,000 shares. The company intends to use the net proceeds of the placing to maintain the roll-out of new stores, with the planned opening in 2018 of 15 new corporate stores, against a target of up to 20 store openings that year and in 2019 providing loans by the company for five sub-franchised store openings against a target of up to 15 store openings that year. In addition, the company intends to increase its investment in marketing.

Vianet reports progress: Vianet Group, the international provider of actionable data and business insight through devices connected to its Internet of Things platform, has reported revenue for the year ended 31 May 2017 of £14.26m (2016: £14.29m). The company stated: “Recurring revenues across the two divisions remains strong at 85% (2016: 83%) as did overall gross margin at circa 70%. Operating profit pre-amortisation of intangibles, share options and exceptional costs was up 9.9% to £3.32m (2016: £3.02m). Profit before taxation was £1.45m post exceptional items (2016: £1.85m). Operating cash generation was up 14.9% to £3.93m (2016: £3.42m). Net cash increased by 71.6% to £3.45m (£2.01m). (Our) Smart Zones division (including the former Leisure division) was resilient, with new device connections driven by 380 new drinks-monitoring system installations (2016: 455). Smart Zones signed a new six-year contract extension with Greene King.” James Dickson, chairman of Vianet Group, added: “Encouraging progress has been made across our business, which has benefited from the focus on exploiting growth opportunities in both the Smart Machines and Smart Zones divisions. With more than 300 customers, including several global blue-chip companies and more than 250,000 devices connected to our Internet of Things platform, our experience and knowledge combine to form a powerful technology and insight capability. As the Internet of Things evolves and businesses increasingly seek more data and insight on everything from asset performance to process automation, we believe Vianet is well placed to grow its position in this rapidly developing area.”

Luxury serviced apartments group Mansley Leisure acquires Cheltenham site: Luxury serviced apartments group Mansley Leisure has acquired Strozzi Palace Boutique Suites in Cheltenham city centre for its first UK site. The company bought the site, consisting of six luxury self-contained suites within a grade II-listed building, for an undisclosed sum off a guide price of £1.5m in a deal brokered by agents Fleurets. Strozzi Palace, which has been rated the number one hotel in Cheltenham on TripAdvisor since 2014, was built in 1894 with the Italian-style façade modelled on the 15th century Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Chris Irving, of Fleurets, said: “The Strozzi Palace sale is indicative of a new breed of accommodation coming to the market place.”

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