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Thu 1st Feb 2018 - Update: Comptoir Group trading, AG BARR
Comptoir Group reports trading ‘above market expectations’: Comptoir Group, the operator of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean restaurants, has reported that ‘despite a difficult market backdrop, the directors are pleased to report that trading for the 52 weeks to 31 December 2017 was above market expectations’. It added: “The company had a strong trading performance during the second half of 2017, ending in a busy December. As announced within the interim results of the company, published in September 2017, the company has focused on controlling its costs and improving its operational efficiencies and margins where possible. The Directors expect this focus to continue throughout 2018. The company opened two new Comptoir Libanais sites and one Shawa in the second half of 2017, together with the opening of a first international franchise operation in the Netherlands with HMS Host. The company ended the year with 26 restaurants, with a further three franchise restaurants. The company is on course to open two more restaurants in 2018 – Comptoir Birmingham (H1 2018) and Comptoir London Bridge (H2 2018). The company is also pleased to confirm that it has completed the sale of its central production unit for £2.6 million (after costs), as initially announced on 19 October 2017. The company ended the year with net cash of £4.5 million.”

AG BARR reports out-performance in UK soft drinks market in 2017: Funkin owner AG BARR has reported total revenue for the 52 weeks ended 27 January 2018 is expected to be circa £277m, up circa 7.5% on the prior year (2017: £257.1m). It stated: “This positive revenue performance reflects the continued success of our innovation alongside strong trading execution across our core brands. It is pleasing that we have continued to outperform the total UK soft drinks market and increased our overall market share. Latest IRI available Marketplace data for the 48 weeks to 31 December 2017 saw the market value up 2.7% and volume broadly flat. Since our announcement in March 2017 that over 90% of our portfolio would be moving to lower or no sugar, we have extended our innovation and reformulation programme such that we now expect that up to 99% of our portfolio will contain less than 5g of total sugars per 100ml before the implementation of the soft drinks sugar tax in April this year. As anticipated, the sugar reduction in regular IRN-BRU in early January 2018 was met with widespread media interest. Our extensive research and testing in the preceding years gave us confidence that we had an excellent taste match and, whilst it is still early days, the consumer response to the new product has so far been encouraging. Our balance sheet remains robust, supported by strong free cash flow, and we have continued to invest across the business while also progressing the share repurchase programme we announced in March 2017. We have not been immune to the external cost pressures faced by many businesses throughout 2017, particularly in relation to the weakness of sterling, however we remain confident of delivering profit growth for the year in line with our expectations. It is expected that 2018 will be another challenging year for UK businesses against a backdrop of continued uncertain economic conditions. In addition the soft drinks industry faces significant changes in regulation, customer dynamics and consumer preferences, bringing both challenges and opportunities. We believe that our strong and flexible business model, our portfolio of brands which reflect the requirements of today’s consumer, and our exciting innovation pipeline, ensure we remain well placed to capitalise on opportunities to grow our business and deliver long-term value to shareholders.”

Whitstable Oyster Company to open restaurant made of recycled shipping containers for second site: Whitstable Oyster Company is to open its second restaurant in its Kent home town. The company has been granted permission by Canterbury City Council to open the 150-cover venue – made of recycled shipping containers – in Whitstable Harbour. The two-storey development on the site of a former industrial building in South Quay is expected to open the summer. Called The Old Engine Shed, the restaurant will also have an outside seating area and host an “educational space” to inform visitors about local heritage, reports Kent Online. Whitstable Oyster Company was given a seven-year lease for the site following a tendering process in 2016. Its proposal, which was originally for a champagne and oyster bar, was selected from a choice of four by Whitstable Harbour Board. Whitstable Oyster Company also operates The Royal Native Oyster Stores seafood restaurant in the town.

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