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Wed 19th Sep 2018 - Update: Comptoir Group, NewRiver and cashless pub
Comptoir Group reports strong First Half: Comptoir Group has reported group revenue of £15.7m up by 19.8% (H1 2017: £13.1m) in the half year to 30 June 2018. Gross profit of £11.3m was up by 19.0% (H1 2017: £9.5m). Adjusted Ebitda before items of £0.5m was up by 152% (H1 2017: £0.2m). It had net cash and cash equivalents at the period end of £3.9m (H1 2017: £0.1m; 31 December 2017: £5.6m). Comptoir Birmingham opened in March 2018 and is trading in line with the board’s expectations. The company currently owns and operates 26 restaurants, with a further three franchise restaurants. Richard Kleiner, non-executive chairman, said: “I am pleased to announce that despite the continuing well publicised turbulence within the UK restaurant sector and the increase in costs, Comptoir Group have proven their strength as a resilient operator with a robust set of results delivering performance as per the board’s expectations. This has been driven through revenue growth in the existing estate, focus on cost management, efficiencies, innovations and continued selective investment in new restaurants. Our proposition provides our customers with a unique offering in the market place with a welcoming warm team hospitality. I would like to thank the board for their continued dedicated focus as well as the teams in our restaurants and our supporting operations, for providing our customers with a great experience.” Chief executive Chaker Hanna added: “The performance of the group’s various brands and restaurants, during the first half of the year, has been steady despite the persistent challenging economic climate. The group ended the period owning and operating 26 restaurants, with a further 3 franchise restaurants. Revenue for the period was £15.7m, an increase of £2.6m or 19.8% (H1 2017: £13.1m) over the comparative period. Adjusted Ebitda was £0.5m, an increase of 152% (H1 2017: £0.2m); the income statement shows a pre-tax loss of £417k (H1 2017: loss of £756k). The group has successfully opened one additional new site in March 2018, namely Comptoir Birmingham. The pop-up Yalla Yalla restaurant in Greenwich was closed in February 2018 having come to the end of its short lease. The company now currently owns and trades from 26 restaurants (19 Comptoir Libanais, two Yalla Yalla, three Shawa, one Levant and one Kenza). The company’s three franchise restaurants are located in Heathrow, Gatwick and Utrecht. The first half of 2018 has seen revenue growth both in the current estate, and more significantly, from the increasing maturity of the new sites opened over the last two years. This yields benefit with the top line growth converting to strong Ebitda as a result of operating efficiencies gained as the new sites progress through their early stages of maturity. A number of well-known national restaurant chains, with a fairly generic homogenous offering and no real ‘differential’ in their proposition to customers, have fallen recent victim to the challenging marketplace. We have observed a significant increase in the level of promotional activity within the restaurant sector, however, we have refrained from discounting and instead have focussed all of our efforts on further improving the customer offering. Most recently through our enhanced new menu implemented in May this year, which introduced, amongst many other new items, our increasingly popular ‘Feast menu’; with a minimum of two diners at a competitive price point offering a truly well rounded exposure to the whole Lebanese dining experience. The group remain focused on investing in carefully selected sites following close analysis of site feasibility subject to in depth scrutiny by the board prior to approval. There will be two additions to the estate in the second half of the year, with the opening of a new Comptoir restaurant by London Bridge railway station, with heavy footfall and a customer demographic proven to be highly successful with the Comptoir brand. This is currently under development and is expected to be trading from late October 2018. The second opening will be another franchise operation with HMS Host in Cheshire Oaks in November 2018. We continue to work closely with our franchise partners and have already agreed terms on two additional franchised sites with HMS Host in 2019; our second international franchised operation in Dubai Airport, due to open in March 2019; followed by Ashford (in Kent) in June 2019. The group has clearly demonstrated that it is a leading player of a differential offering within the sector and will continue to provide its ever growing customer base with excellent quality, healthy food in an environment with a genuine feel of family hospitality. Despite the continuation of the exceptionally hot and dry weather conditions into the early part of the second half of the year, we can report that year to date trading is still in line with the board’s expectations, with a particularly strong contribution from the restaurants with external dining areas. As already indicated, the group continues to control its costs and improve its operational efficiencies and margins whilst maintaining great value for money and, with the quality of the new site opening in London Bridge in October this year, together with the continuing trading performance, the board maintains its expectations for the full 2018 financial year. The pipeline for 2019 is currently under consideration and is dependent on selective site availability and funds available. The group is currently in advanced negotiations with two new locations for Comptoir and one location for Shawa for 2019 and is reviewing other potential sites to strengthen its pipeline for 2020 and beyond. The group’s focus, however, still remains on continuing to invest in, and improve, the performance of its current estate. The group also continues to assess new sites and acquisition opportunities, whilst also actively negotiating with our partners, a pipeline of potential additional franchise sites. Irrespective of the outcome of these negotiations, we expect to end 2019 with a minimum of six franchised operations.”

NewRiver signs first shopping centre management deal: NewRiver, the real estate investment trust which owns several hundred pubs, has signed an Asset Management Agreement with Canterbury City Council for the asset management of Whitefriars Shopping Centre. This agreement is the first to be signed by NewRiver since it announced in May 2018 its longer-term strategies to adapt to a changing retail real estate market, which included using the company’s market-leading asset management platform to manage third-party assets. Under the terms of the AMA, NewRiver will undertake full asset management responsibilities for the shopping centre in exchange for a management fee calculated as a proportion of net operational income received and a development fee calculated on third-party-tendered development costs. The agreement will initially be for two years, with the option of a roll on for a further two years subject to the agreement of both parties. NewRiver will not acquire an equity stake in the asset as part of the agreement. Whitefriars Shopping Centre is the dominant regional shopping centre for East Kent and is located in the heart of Canterbury, with a catchment of 270,000 people within a 30 minute drive and annual footfall of 13 million. It has 75 units across 474,000 sq ft and 530 car parking spaces, and is anchored by Fenwicks, Marks & Spencer, Next and Primark. The shopping centre has been fully owned by the Council since February 2018, when it purchased the remaining 50% of the asset from its 50:50 joint venture with TH Real Estate for £75 million, equating to a net initial yield of 6.5%. The joint venture was formed in 2016, when the Council paid £79 million for its initial 50%, equating to a net initial yield of 6.0%. Allan Lockhart, chief executive, NewRiver said: “We are delighted to have signed this Asset Management Agreement with Canterbury City Council to bring our asset management expertise to Whitefriars Shopping Centre. NewRiver’s selection by the Council in a competitive tender process demonstrates that our strong relationships with retailers and track record of successful asset management makes us the clear choice for third-party retail asset owners. Against a growing trend of local authorities purchasing shopping centre assets and taking control of their town centres, NewRiver is ideally positioned to provide best-in-class asset management expertise to them, delivering thriving assets for local communities and sustainable, long-term revenue for our shareholders.” Colin Carmichael, chief executive, Canterbury City Council said: “Our purchase of Whitefriars Shopping Centre in February 2018 was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take control of one our city’s key sites and ensure it works for the benefit of the community. The Council is very pleased to be partnering with one of the UK’s leading retail asset managers in NewRiver to realise this ambition. Their passion and expertise give the council the confidence that Whitefriars will continue to go from strength to strength.”

East Anglia pub claims to be the first in the UK to go cashless: A traditional pub in East Anglia has stopped taking cash payments and is the first in the UK to do so, its landlord has claimed. The Boot in Freston, near Ipswich, no longer has tills and customers have to either pay by card or through their phone. Having been derelict for nine years, the 1530s pub was refurbished by landlord Mike Keen, who has now opted to go cashless. Keen said there were many benefits, most notably lower insurance premiums as cash is no longer kept at the premises. He said some delis had gone cashless and at least one bar in Manchester, but no traditional pubs before The Boot.”Cash has always been a pain. You’ve got problems with theft,” he said. “The banks charge a fortune for you to pay cash in, they take a cut of everything you pay in. You have to organise change, go into town, park, queue up which is another security risk or pay a firm like Securicor to pick it up. The bottom line is so hard we have to take advantage where we can. If there was a negative it would be some people who are used to paying with cash are a bit taken aback when they haven’t got the option, but everyone has a bank account. He added of his claim to be Britain’s first cashless pub: “You would expect it to be in London, but we pipped them to the post.”

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