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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Wed 5th Jun 2019 - Update: St Austell reports record FY turnover, Go Ape seeks new investment, Applegreen AGM
St Austell reports ‘steady’ trading in 2019 as full-year turnover hits record £179.6m: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has reported a “steady” start to trading in 2019 while it is looking to add three sites to its portfolio per annum. The company, which operates 178 pubs, inns and hotels, has also expanded coverage of its wholesale business this year by setting up an additional depot in Dorset. It comes as St Austell reported turnover increased 6.1% to a record £179,645,000 for the year ending 29 December 2018, compared with £169,307,000 the previous year. Like-for-like sales in its 33-strong managed estate were up 2.3%, driven by a 5% rise in drink sales and 2.0% increase in accommodation sales. Like-for-like food revenue remained flat. Overall, total revenue in the managed estate rose 2.2%. The 144-strong tenanted estate saw like-for-like net income growth of 2.9% with Ebitda per pub up 1.4%. Underlying Ebitda was down 2.7% to £19,200,000, compared with £19,700,000 the previous year. Group operating profit before other items fell 5.8% to £13,002,000, compared with £13,292,000 the year before, “reflecting the additional operating costs faced by our industry, changes to our sales mix, plus the ongoing investments we are making to put in place systems and infrastructure that will support our sustainable long-term growth”. Pre-tax profit before other items was down to £11,613,000, compared with £12,543,000 the previous year. During the year the company invested £13.5m in capital expenditure, compared with £15.7m the year before. This included the acquisition at the end of November 2018 of the Rock Point Inn at Lyme Regis, its first trading site in Dorset. St Austell is planning a major refurbishment and is due to reopen the site in the autumn as a managed house. It also acquired the Griffin Inn in Bath as well as Whiteways guest house in Penzance, which will provide staff accommodation in west Cornwall. During the year the company completed the major investment in the new Hare Brewery and bottling line in Warmley for its Bath Ales operation. Since the year end, St Austell has acquired The Lamplighters, in Shirehampton, near Bristol. Chief executive James Staughton, who will step down in January 2020 after 40 years in the role and be replaced by Admiral Taverns boss Kevin Georgel, said: “Our pub business returned a solid performance with the managed pubs seeing a 2.3% like-for-like sales increase. Our tenanted and leased pubs remain a key part of our business and experienced like-for-like net income growth of 2.9%. I am encouraged to report our own beer volumes increased by 5.1% in 2018 with on-trade volumes up 2.8% and the off-trade up by 10.3%. Our strategy remains unchanged and we will continue to focus on the creation and development of high-quality beer brands, developing our people and growing the scale and quality of our pub estate through selective acquisitions and continued investment. We have enjoyed a steady start to 2019 and we are confident the investments we have made, including Hare Brewery, are helping us to build a strong platform on which to ensure the long-term sustainable success of the business.”

Go Ape seeks new investment with aim to double in size: Go Ape, the outdoor adventure business, has launched a hunt for new investment, as it looks to double in size. The company, which currently has 34 sites across Britain, has hired advisory firm Livingstone Partners to seek out prospective investors, with the hope of securing investment by the end of 2019. New funding will go towards plans to launch “new and innovative outdoor experiences”, expand to further locations and revamp existing sites. The group hopes the new funding will allow it to double in size over the next five years. The firm, which was launched 17 years ago, predominantly runs tree-top high ropes courses but has expanded to offer also zip wires, off-road Segways, mountain bikes, and tree-top trampoline nets. In 2018, the company welcomed more than 900,000 visitors and generated sales of £19.2 million. Founder and chairman Rebecca Mayhew said: “As a team we’ve made a strategic decision to partner with an external investor to allow us to double the size of Go Ape over the next five years. We believe in the transformational power of outdoor adventure. With extra investment and expertise, we can go faster and reach more people.”

Applegreen reports Welcome Break performance as ‘satisfactory’: Applegreen, the roadside services operator and owner of Welcome Break, has said that trading for the overall group had been in line with expectations for the first five months of 2019. It said that the performance of Welcome Break had been “satisfactory” despite more challenging trading conditions in 2019 as “ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit has impacted on consumer sentiment”. Daniel Kitchen, chairman of Applegreen, said: “The legacy Applegreen business is performing strongly year on year notwithstanding prior year comparators were negatively impacted by adverse weather events. We are pleased with the performance of the business in Ireland where trading conditions remain good. In the UK, the performance of Welcome Break has been satisfactory despite more challenging trading conditions in 2019 as ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit has impacted on consumer sentiment. The management team has successfully integrated this business and we continue to progress with the delivery of synergy benefits. The US business is performing well and we continue to explore new opportunities in this market.” The group said it continued to selectively invest in quality sites with strong return potential with a total of nine sites being added to the portfolio since 31 December 2018. Six new sites were added in the Republic of Ireland and three new sites in the UK. It also converted a further two sites in the US to 7-Eleven convenience stores.

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