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Fri 15th Sep 2017 - Update: JDW and Comptoir results, Brunning & Price, Potting Shed
Wetherspoon reports like-for-likes risen to 6.1% in recent weeks, reports 127 pubs disposed of in last two years: JD Wetherspoon like-for-like have risen to 6.1% in the few weeks after its year-end on 30 July. The company reported sales rose 1.9% to £1,660.8m in its full year excluding an extra week in a 53 week year – like-for-like sales were up 4%. Profit before tax rose 13.7% to £76.4m. The company opened ten pubs during the year, with 41 closed, resulting in a trading estate of 895 pubs at the financial year end. The average development cost for a new pub (excluding the cost of freeholds) was £2.3m, compared with £2.5m a year ago. The full-year depreciation charge was £73.9m (2016: £72.2m). The company intends to open about 10-15 pubs in the year ending July 2018. It sold, or terminated the leases of, 127 pubs, in the last two years, at a loss of approximately £55m, including previously reported impairments. The company stated: “Some mistakes are inevitable in site selection, but we hope to learn from these experiences, in order to try to avoid similar mistakes in the future.” Tim Martin, chairman of JD Wetherspoon, said: “Most ‘PLCs’ are expected to comment, in their results’ statements, on the UK’s prospects outside of the EU and on the likely impact on their individual companies. It is my view that the main risk from the current Brexit negotiations is not to Wetherspoon, but to our excellent EU suppliers – and to EU economies. As the public instinctively understands, but few academics, economists, boardrooms and City institutions grasp, democracy is the strongest economic steroid – hence the astonishing rise of countries like Japan, Singapore and South Korea, after its adoption. A fascinating insight into the thought processes of many pro-Remain ‘elites’ can be found in an article in The Spectator by Professor Robert Tombs of Cambridge University. In the current negotiations, democratically-elected politicians from the UK are dealing with unelected oligarchs from the EU. Since the oligarchs are not subject to judgement at the ballot box, their approach is dictated by more sectarian factors – the interests and ideology of EU apparatchiks like them, rather than residents or businesses from EU countries. As a result of their current posturing and threats, EU negotiators are inevitably encouraging importers like Wetherspoon to look elsewhere for supplies. This process is unlikely to have adverse effects on the UK economy, as companies will be able to switch to suppliers representing the 93% of the world’s population which is not in the EU, but this evolution will eventually be highly damaging to the economy of the EU. Wetherspoon is extremely confident that it can switch from EU suppliers, if required, although we would be very reluctant to initiate such actions. It is my view that Juncker, Barnier, Selmayr, Verhofstadt and others need to take a wise-up pill in order to avoid causing further economic damage to struggling economies like Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy – where youth unemployment, in particular, is at epidemic levels. There seems to be little genuine appetite for a free-trade deal from the Brussels bureaucracy, so EU companies are, paradoxically, reliant on the goodwill of UK consumers, who are likely to prefer tariff-free goods in the future from non-EU countries, which are generally in favour of free trade, rather than deals with companies which are subject to the diktat of those who wish to punish the UK. Since the year end, Wetherspoon’s like-for-like sales have continued to be encouraging and have increased by 6.1%. This is a positive start, but is for a few weeks only – and is very unlikely to continue for the rest of the year. Comparisons will become more stretching – and sales, which were very strong in the summer holidays, are likely to return to more modest levels. It is anticipated that like-for-like sales of around 3-4% will be required in order to match last year’s profit before tax. We will provide updates as we progress through the year. We currently anticipate a trading outcome for the current financial year in line with our expectations.” The company paid £43.7m to employees in the year in respect of bonuses and free shares, an increase of £10.7m compared with the previous year, of which 96% was paid to staff below board level and 74% was paid to staff working in our pubs. 

Comptoir Group reports trading has stabilised: Comptoir Group has reported revenue of £13.1m was up by 36.1% (2016: £9.6m) in the half year to 30 June. Gross profit of £9.5m up by 36.4% (2016: £7m). Adjusted Ebitda was £0.2m down by 81% (2016: £1.0m). Comptoir Gloucester Road opened in January 2017 and Comptoir Reading opened in July 2017 and trading in line with board expectation. The company currently own and operate 23 restaurants, with a further 2 franchise restaurants. Richard Kleiner, non-executive chairman, said: “Notwithstanding the challenging environment that has subsisted since early 2017, I am pleased to see that, over the last few months, the business revenue has stabilised. The company is therefore in a good position to take advantage of the opportunities that the board believe will arise over the foreseeable future. I would also like to thank my fellow directors and the whole of the Comptoir Group team for their efforts over the interim period to the end of June 2017.” Chief executive Chaker Hanna said: “The performance of the group’s various brands and restaurants, during the first six months of the year, has been steady despite some challenging conditions. The group ended the period owning and operating 23 restaurants, with a further 2 franchise restaurants. The company has opened one further restaurant post period end. Revenue for the period was £13.1m, an increase of £3.5m or 36.1% (2016: £9.6m) over the comparative period. Adjusted Ebitda was £0.2m, a decrease of £813k or 81% (2016: £1.0m). Following various adjustments including highlighted items, the income statement shows a pre-tax loss of £756k. The group has successfully opened two new sites during 2017 to date, namely Comptoir Gloucester Road in January 2017 and Comptoir Reading in July 2017. The company currently owns and trades from 24 restaurants (17 Comptoir Libanais, three Yalla Yalla, two Shawa, one Levant and one Kenza). The company’s two current franchise restaurants are located in Heathrow and Gatwick. During the period, we focused heavily on quality and consistency of our operation with a major drive in training and improving the consistency of our food offering. We have observed a significant increase in level of promotional activity within the restaurant sector. The board has decided not to discount but improve our offering to bring more value for money for the group’s customers. During the 6-month period to 30 June 2017, and as previously announced, the group did experience a number of additional cost pressures including higher supplier costs due to currency exchange rate variations, consumer spending impacting on average spend per transaction, increase in business rates and the National living Wage, which was implemented at the beginning of April 2017. The management team have worked hard during the period to mitigate these various cost pressures through efficiencies and implementing initiatives to improve the group’s gross margin and labour. The group has seen a noticeable improvement in trading during the last few months as the 9 new restaurant opened in the second half of 2016 have bedded in. The growing maturity of these restaurants has led to increased sales, which also has a positive impact on the labour cost margin and therefore the profitability of the group. I am confident therefore that the company is moving in the right direction and directors’ expectations for the full year will be met. In line with this, the company expects a second half weighting to its financial performance in 2017. As indicated above, the group continues to control its costs and improve its operational efficiencies and margins and, with the quality of the new site openings planned for the remainder of the financial year, together with the continuing of recent stronger trading that the group has experienced in July and August, there is a degree of confidence of achieving the board’s current expectations for the full 2017 financial year. However, this does assume that there are no material factors which could impact on the results including significant delays in the opening of the new sites or macro-economic factors outside the group’s control. The pipeline for 2018 is currently under consideration and is dependent on site availability and funds available. The group’s focus however remains on improving the performance of the current estate. Although the group does continue to assess new sites and acquisition opportunities which may be a strategic fit and add value to the group’s overall operations.” 

Brunning & Price adds former Jamie’s site in Cheltenham: Brunning and Price, the gastro-pub division of The Restaurant Group, has acquired the Former Courthouse in Cheltenham, which previously was occupied by Jamie’s Italian. Managing director Mary Wilcock said: “We are very excited and fortunate to have landed such an historic building in this beautiful part of the world. We plan to sensitively transform the building into a welcoming pub restaurant, which we hope will find a place within the hearts of the locals.” Once reopened, early in 2018, the new pub will be called The Old Courthouse, to honour its heritage. It was designed in a ‘Italianate style’ by the then surveyor of County Courts, Thomas Charles Sorby and built between 1869 and 1871. Wilcock added: “We think it’s stunning and love that it still retains its courtroom, largely unaltered over the years. We plan to breathe new life into the building, working through the winter, uncovering its many authentic and beautiful features to create a traditionally furnished pub with open fires and wooden floors. The doors will open for the first time early in 2018. Trading over two floors, the pub will carry a good selection of cask ales and craft beers, back bar shelves crammed with malts and gins and an extensive wine list. We are currently recruiting our management and chef team, who will soon start work on the development of a seasonal menu with a spine of freshly prepared, classic British dishes, complemented by more exotic influences.Nearer the time of opening, we’ll be looking for lots of local crew to work in the bar, waiting, kitchen and maintenance roles to create a team of around 40. At present we would love to hear from anyone who would like to be involved within the management and chef teams. We would also love to hear from anyone who has a link to the history of the building as we have a real passion to find out as much as we can about it’s history.” Brunning & Price now operates 52 sites. 

Potting Shed lines up fourth site as Downing investment hits £8.2m: The landmark former HSBC bank in Guiseley will reopen as The Potting Shed bar and gardens after a multi-million pound investment. Concept bar specialists Ormsborough Ltd have confirmed plans to transform the grand sandstone building into the company’s latest venue, completely remodeling the interior and creating an outdoor terrace. The Oxford Road site, which closed as a bank in September 2016, will become a garden-themed pub specialising in craft beers, cocktails and artisan spirits, and freshly homemade food. The Guiseley Potting Shed, due to open before Christmas, will be the fourth to be owned and operated by Ormsborough Ltd, which already has highly successful similar bars in Bingley near Leeds, Beverley on the outskirts of Hull and its most recent addition in Northallerton. All the family-friendly bars have a distinctive, quirky outdoors design with a row of trademark brightly-coloured wooden sheds in the gardens for private bench seating, hanging baskets and an indoor lawned area. The imposing former bank building, which is a well-known feature on Guiseley’s high street, has stood empty since HSBC announced its closure to customers last autumn. Potting Shed plans will give it a new lease of life thanks to a million-pound-plus investment, as well as creating in the region of 40 new jobs. The project is being backed by major industry investor Downing LLP which has already invested almost £8.2m into the business. Ormsborough Ltd director Allan Harper said the company was delighted to be able to secure the future of such a beautiful old building and allow it to become a focal point for the town again. “We take a lot of care in finding all of our sites and a landmark building like this fits perfectly with our brand and gives us a great opportunity,” he said. “Potting Shed bars don’t only focus on the quality of the food and drink served, and on our unique design elements, they also become very much a part of the community they’re in, so we look forward to being able to do that in Guiseley. Our bars are different, they’re fun, and they welcome families so we hope everyone will come and experience that for themselves once the conversion is complete.”

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