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Wed 15th May 2019 - Update: Marston’s results, new concept, No 1 Rosemary Water, SSP results
Marston’s targets £120m of disposal proceeds as it bring down debt by £200m: Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay has told Propel the company will target sale proceeds of £120m in the period between 2020 and 2003 – and it bring down debt by circa £200m. The company will sell unlicensed property it owns and accelerate the sale of lower-end tenanted and leased sites. However, Findlay said there are opportunities to grow the companies profits whilst reducing debt, citing the wet-led pub market as offering acquisition targets such as the 15 pubs it acquired from Aprirose earlier this year. The company will open nine new pub restaurants this year and five or six a year plus the three or four lodges a year going forward. The company reported managed and franchised like-for-like sales were up 2.2% in the six months ended 30 March 2019, and up 3.2% in last ten weeks of period – Findlay reported Easter sales were ‘significantly stronger’ than the market. Average profit per pub was up 1%. It reported ‘continued organic growth’ in brewing with revenue up 8%, own-brewed and licensed volumes up 4%. It has a target to reduce net capital expenditure by £30 million in 2019 and further £25-30 million in 2020. Findlay added: “I am pleased to report continued growth across all segments of the business. Our taverns wet-led community pubs have built on the strong trading performance last year and it is particularly encouraging to see our food-led pubs once again achieving increasing momentum in profitable like- for-like sales growth. Our leading brewing business goes from strength to strength, winning new distribution contracts and continuing to grow market share. We remain focussed on our strategic objectives and good progress has been made with our stated aim to improve cash generation and reduce the group’s leverage. Whilst the backdrop of ongoing uncertainty around Brexit continues to be challenging, opportunities for growth remain and we are confident of delivering another year of profitable growth for our shareholders.” Revenue was up 5% to £553.1m in the First Half and profit before tax was up 2% to £37m.

Ex-Wildwood and Giggling Squid executives to launch new venture: Husband and wife duo Pete and Jo Morrison, formerly Giggling Squid operations director and Wildwood managing director respectively, are to launch a new restaurant concept called Jo & Co in Hove, East Sussex, next month. The pair met whilst working at Ask and Zizzi restaurants in 1998. Their new restaurant launch will be an all-day dining concept specialising in brunch, sharing plates and pulled meats. Jo was formerly the managing director of the Wildwood chain (Tasty Plc) growing the chain from inception to 60 restaurants, and Pete was most recently operations director at the Giggling Squid chain, taking the chain from nine to 25 restaurants. Prior to that he was operations director at Chimichanga. “In recent years we thought ‘are we going to stick doing this for other people for the rest of our career or are we going to take the leap of faith and do it for ourselves’,” said Pete, who will focus on front of house, drinks and design with Jo developing menus and executing the food offering. “After spending some time out, we were lucky enough to visit Australia and New Zealand who have some fantastic brunch restaurants that have formed part of our inspiration for Jo & Co,” said Jo. Jo & Co menu will feature hashes and benedicts as part of the daytime menu, with some vegan dishes, pizzette, small plates and sharers in the evening, specialising in marinated slow cooked meats. The restaurant will be open from the morning and has been funded by their own and family money. It will have a modern, contemporary feel with 80 covers in the main restaurant area, 25 seats in the mezzanine bar and pavement seating for an additional 16 covers. Pete said: “We are very excited to be opening something special locally, a neighbourhood restaurant, with the opportunity and flexibility to translate to other venues when the time is right.”

No1 Rosemary Water plans £1m crowdfund: No 1 Rosemary Water is to launch a £1m crowdfunding drive in its latest expansion move. David Spencer-Percival, the serial entrepreneur who runs No.1 Rosemary Water, told City AM he is looking to raise fresh capital amid a global product drive and the launch of new soda water drinks developed alongside botanists at Kew Gardens. No.1 Rosemary Water, which claims to be the world’s first herbal extract health drink brand, is currently sold in circa 1,500 outlets across the UK. Spencer-Percival told City AM: “Crowdfunding is a good way for us to raise money, because not only do you raise the money, but it expands the customer base and awareness. We have grown super fast. We’ve got into Waitrose and Marks and Spencer and now Sainsbury’s much quicker than Fever Tree did...compared to where they were at this stage we’re outperforming them quite comfortably, but it takes time.” Last week the group announced that Superman actor Henry Cavill had become the latest high-profile backer of the firm, joining the likes of Take That singer Howard Donald and investment bankers such as Rothschild star Akeel Sach and Goldman Sachs figure Anthony Gutman. Spencer-Percival, who made his business reputation from recruitment firms such as Spencer Ogden, said the company was attracting a combination of health-conscious 18-30 year olds and women over the age of 50. Spencer-Percival said the start-up had cost more than the group originally anticipated, adding: “We are trying to create a new drinks category from scratch, that costs a lot of money. It is expensive, but the prize is huge.”

SSP Group reports good First Half: SSP Group, the operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has reported revenue up 6.8% to £1,261.6m in the six months ended 31 March 2019 with underlying operating profit up 14.6% at £62.5m. Kate Swann, chief executive of SSP Group said: “SSP has delivered another good performance in the first half of 2019, driven by strong sales growth, significant new contract openings across the world and our programme of operational improvements. We have continued to grow our global presence, particularly in North America and Asia, and we have further expanded our operations in Latin America. These are high growth markets for SSP and present us with exciting opportunities. Given this positive momentum, we are today raising our expectations for net gains in the second half of the year. Looking forward, the second half has started well and whilst a degree of uncertainty always exists around passenger numbers in the short term, we continue to be well placed to benefit from the structural growth opportunities in our markets and our programme of operational improvements.”

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