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Tue 13th Mar 2018 - Update: Tasty results, Fever-Tree, C&C Group, Grind
Tasty halts new openings, results in line with revised expectations: Wildwood operator Tasty has reported sales up 9.7% to £50.3m (2016: £45.8m) for the 52 weeks ended 31 December 2017. The company generated adjusted Ebitda of £3.5m. It disposed of three underperforming restaurants and opened six new Wildwood restaurants during the period. Post year end, the company disposed of a further three sites. Tasty does not intend to open any new restaurants in 2018, with management focused on restructuring the existing restaurant portfolio of the company. The financial performance of the group was in line with the board’s revised expectation. Market conditions have been increasingly challenging through 2017 and the board’s expectation is that there will be no improvement in this regard in 2018. Chairman Keith Lassman added: “I am pleased to be reporting on the group’s annual results for the 52 week period ended 31 December 2017 and the comparative 53 week period ended 1 January 2017. The group currently operates 61 restaurants, comprising of six Dim t and 54 Wildwood restaurants and one other. The group has traded in line with the board’s revised expectations. However, 2017 has proven to be a challenging year across the sector. At the beginning of the year we noted the impact the difficult market conditions were likely to have and undertook a strategic review of the business. We identified a number of weaknesses in our operational structure and have begun to implement an eighteen month plan to address these issues. In addition to this, we made the decision to dispose of a number of underperforming sites and suspend expansion whilst we make these operational improvements. In line with this strategy, since the beginning of 2017 the group has opened six new sites and has disposed of 6 sites. There are a number of sites that the group is still planning to dispose of and at present the group is not committed to any new openings in 2018. The group is focussed on the planned operational improvements and we are now seeing better customer engagement and staff retention. During the period we launched our apprenticeship scheme to support and enhance our improved staff training scheme which will be expanded throughout 2018. Our dedicated staff have responded well to the challenges of 2017 and I would like to take this opportunity of thanking them again for their hard work. The board does not expect market conditions to improve in 2018 and believes that a further deterioration is likely. Underlying input costs will continue to rise and consumer spending will face increased pressures. The group’s next round of operational improvements are targeting improvements in the areas of sales, food and labour margins, however it will be some time before the full benefit of these changes is felt and financial performance in 2018 is very unlikely to see any improvement on 2017. Despite the fall in financial performance experienced in 2017, the group remains cash generative. Financial highlights are included in the business review. The directors believe that the group’s brands remain attractive to customers and the group has the right strategic plan in place to ensure future growth.” The group has previously noted that it had a number of sites which were underperforming, primarily from the old Wildwood Kitchen estate. For each of these sites turnaround strategies have been introduced and where these have not been successful the group has sought to dispose of the property. Since 1 January 2017 a number of disposals have taken place. Canary Wharf Wildwood: The lease for this property was assigned on 5 January 2018 for a premium receivable by the group of £1.45m. This contract was unconditional at the year end and has therefore been recognised in these financial statements; Ilkley Wildwood Kitchen: The lease of this property was assigned on 22 September 2017 for a premium receivable by the group of £120,000; Abingdon Wildwood Kitchen: A surrender of the lease was agreed on 14 January 2018 at no cost to the group; Bristol Wildwood Kitchen: The lease on this site was surrendered on 31 December 2017 at a cost of £195,000 to the group; Barnes Wildwood Kitchen: Contracts have exchange on this property with the lease due to be assigned imminently at a net cost of £nil to the group; Gloucester Road Wildwood: On 8 March 2018 this unit was sold as a going concern for a consideration of £2.7m. Funds for Canary Wharf and Gloucester Road totalling £4.15m have been received in 2018 and are not included in the cash and cash equivalents in these financial statements.

Fever-Tree sales rise 66% to £170.2m: Fever-Tree, the world’s leading supplier of premium carbonated mixers, has reported sales up 66% to £170.2m for the year ended for 31 December 2017. Adjusted Ebitda was £58.7m (2016: £35.8m). Tim Warrillow, co-founder and chief executive of Fever-Tree said: “It has been a year of significant progress for Fever-Tree. We have continued to see strong growth across all our regions with the UK once again delivering an exceptional performance culminating in Fever-Tree ending the year as the leading mixer brand at UK retail. Whilst this is a notable achievement, there remains a significant opportunity in front of us across all our regions as Fever-Tree continues to drive the evolution of the mixer category. We have had an encouraging start to the year. Our first mover advantage, pioneering approach, brand strength, penetration and relationships means we are ideally positioned to be able to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.”

C&C Group reports results in line with expectations: C&C Group, the manufacturer, marketer and distributor of branded cider, beer, wine and soft drinks, has issued its period end trading update for the 12 months to 28 February, 2018. The company stated: “Despite weather-related disruption, trading and cash generation was broadly in line with management expectations. Group operating profit is anticipated to be around €86 million for the full year, with Admiral Taverns contributing an additional €1.1 million to group earnings. Cash conversion is expected to be within our guidance range at c.60% of Ebitda. Tennent’s in Scotland and super-premium brands grew revenues strongly. Magners returned to volume growth with momentum building through the first year of our cider distribution partnership with AB InBev. In Scotland, Tennent’s grew share in the important IFT and retail channels in the second half, outperforming the overall GB beer market which declined -2%. Net sales revenues for Tennent’s are expected to be +3% for FY18 (FY17: -4%). Our wholesale business in Scotland is also performing strongly growing volumes +2% (FY17: -4%), revenues and share in FY18. Our expanded distribution agreement with AB InBev for our cider portfolio in the UK gathered momentum in the second half. Magners was +9% in the second half (H1: -6%) benefitting from the launch of Magners Dark Fruit, increased participation in major retailers’ Christmas promotions and incremental on-trade and wholesale distribution. Magners will post flat volumes for the full year FY18 (FY17: +13%) against a GB cider market that was also flat. In Ireland, the trading environment remains highly competitive, both within long alcoholic drinks and from other categories. Bulmers (including Outcider) grew volumes and share in the off-trade and maintained share in the packaged on-trade segment. In an overall cider category that declined -1%3, Bulmers brand volumes were down c.-6% for FY18 (FY17: +3%) reflecting the loss of on-trade draught distribution points. As highlighted in our first half results, revenues and profitability in Ireland were also negatively impacted by reduced volumes in our wholesale business and the reversion of certain customers to direct supply from AB InBev. Our super-premium portfolio made further progress across all our domestic markets in the second half. Volumes will exceed 100kHL in FY18, representing c.4% of group branded volumes. Organic volume growth from brands such as Menabrea and Heverlee, increased +41% for full year FY18 (FY17 +60%). In addition, we saw strong first year contributions from our recently acquired craft brands 5Lamps in Ireland and Orchard Pig in the UK. In Export territories volume growth is expected to be +2% (FY17: +4%) for FY18. Good growth in Magners and Tennent’s in Asia Pacific was off-set by slower growth in cider in Europe attributable to increased parallel import activity and supply chain disruptions in our nascent African business. In the US, Magners and Wyders stabilised through the course of FY18, while Woodchuck and our other national brands lost volume and share, reflecting an overall cider category in high single-digit decline. In February 2018, we announced that our US subsidiary Vermont Hard Cider would resume full responsibility for the sales and marketing of the group’s cider portfolio in the US. Cash generation remains robust, with cash conversion for FY18 expected to be within our long term guidance range at c.60% of Ebitda (FY17: 53%).During the year we made a €42 million investment in the UK on-trade through Admiral Taverns and invested a further €12 million on our craft brand portfolio. In addition, we returned €73 million to shareholders through a combination of share buy-back and dividends. The performance of our Scottish businesses and our growing super-premium portfolio has been encouraging in FY18 and both are well positioned to deliver further value growth in FY19. The introduction of minimum unit pricing of alcohol in Scotland this year may result in some short-term market disruption, but longer term will bring value to the category. While competitive pressures remain in Ireland, we expect performance to improve next year. In the UK, our strengthened route-to-market platforms of Admiral Taverns and AB InBev are now well-embedded. The outlook for the UK high street and consumer spending remains challenging but our brands and the predominantly wet-led, community pubs we serve are proving resilient.”

Grind agrees sale of Holborn site back to landlord: Propel has learned that Grind, the fast-growing all-day dining brand, has agreed the sale of it’s Holborn site back to the landlord, the Hoxton Hotel, with its last day of trading in Holborn on Friday (16 March). Grind chief executive and founder David Abrahamovitch said: “Opening in September 2014, Holborn Grind was our third location and really elevated the brand. It has been an important part of our family and played a crucial role in creating the success story Grind represents. As part of our record-breaking £2m crowdfunding raise in December, we outlined our strategy to focus our expansion on our restaurant model and growth into airports and train stations – and, over time, to move away from small A1 café bar sites such as Holborn Grind. The Hoxton Hotel made us an offer for the lease of Holborn Grind, tying into its wider plans to extend and redevelop the hotel. While Holborn Grind is profitable, the offer was substantial and, in the context of our broader strategy, it makes sense for us to sell Holborn Grind, add the proceeds to our expansion funding, and seek to relocate to a larger restaurant-style site nearby. This is very much a one-off, opportunistic sale and we are actively expanding, with several openings planned for this year and more in the pipeline beyond. All members of Holborn Grind will be staying with the business in our other locations.”

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