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Mon 1st Jun 2020 - Update: Fuller’s, Rick Stein, AB InBev and Shaftesbury
Fuller’s updates on financing: London-based pub operator Fuller’s has updated in relation to covid-19 during the current temporary closure of its Managed and Tenanted pubs and hotels. The company stated: “As stated previously, Fuller’s is well financed with a healthy balance sheet and significant liquidity headroom. However, in light of continued uncertainty, pending further clarity from the Government as to when and how pubs will be allowed to reopen, management have taken additional precautionary measures to ensure the company is in the best possible financial position, with maximum flexibility. Following confirmation of Fuller’s eligibility to access the COVID Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), the Fuller’s board has formally approved the issue of commercial paper under this facility for an initial sum of £100 million. This will enable the company to leave the majority of its £155 million revolving credit facilities undrawn and puts Fuller’s in a strong position with significant liquidity headroom to successfully navigate the months ahead. In addition, Fuller’s has an excellent relationship with its lending banks. Constructive discussions have led to appropriate amendments to its banking agreements. As a result, the company’s quarterly covenant tests through to and including the September 2020 test, will primarily focus on liquidity headroom metrics, a more appropriate measure while the company’s pubs and hotels remain temporarily closed. This, together with the action outlined above relating to the additional liquidity reserves being put in place, further underpins the board’s confidence that Fuller’s has sufficient liquidity headroom to sustain the company through this period of continued uncertainty. This action comes on top of existing cost reducing initiatives including placing 96% of our workforce in furlough, a voluntary pay reduction by exec and board members, minimising outgoings across the business, suspending all non-essential capital spend and negotiating across our supplier base to reduce costs further.”

Rick Stein consults on closing sites permanently: Rick Stein and his ex-wife Jill are planning to close several of his 14 restaurants, including two in Cornwall. The company’s managing director Ian Fitzgerald told his 600 staff: “It remains a challenging time for everyone as we come to terms with the implications and repercussions of the coronavirus crisis. Sadly, with less customers expected in the future, it is likely that we will need to employ fewer people. Ongoing discussions with the bank and our landlords have not yielded sufficient progress and therefore we are having to sadly look at the viability of a small number of operational sites which includes consulting with Porthleven, Falmouth and Marlborough.” Stein and his son Jack have begun running a virtual food festival ‘to support farmers, fishermen and food producers as well as raising money for charity’. He has also been serving takeaways from the Rick Stein restaurant in Sandbanks, Dorset, and The Cornish Arms in St Merryn, near Padstow. Meanwhile, Marcus Wareing has revealed that he fears his three London restaurants – including Marcus at the Berkeley Hotel – may not survive the pandemic. Stein opened The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow in 1975. A spokesman for Stein said: “We are currently in conversation with our teams as to the best way forward. Final decisions cannot be made until that process is complete.”

AB InBev completes sale of Australian subsidiary: Anheuser-Busch InBev has completed its previously announced sale of Carlton & United Breweries (CUB), its Australian subsidiary, to Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd. “Despite the challenging environment, our colleagues working on this transaction showed great dedication and remained focused on delivering to its completion. I would like to thank them and also the CUB team for their continued commitment and resilience,” said Carlos Brito, chief executive of AB InBev. The transaction is valued at 16 billion AUD, equivalent to approximately 11 billion USD, in enterprise value. As part of this transaction, AB InBev granted Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd rights to commercialise the portfolio of AB InBev’s global and international brands in Australia. Substantially all of the proceeds from the divestiture of the Australian business will be used by the company to pay down debt.

Capco buys 26.3% share in Shaftesbury: Capco has bought a 26.3% shareholding in West End property landlord Shaftesbury across two tranches for total consideration of £436 million, at a price of 540 pence per Shaftesbury share, representing a discount of 13.9% to the closing Shaftesbury share price on 29 May 2020. The shares are being acquired from Veloqx (Jersey) Limited, as trustee of the Veloqx settlement, a discretionary trust established by Samuel Tak Lee for the benefit of himself and his immediate family. Ian Hawksworth, chief executive of Capco, said: “As long-term investors in the Covent Garden estate and the West End, the investment in Shaftesbury represents a unique opportunity to deploy our capital in an exceptional portfolio at an attractive entry price, which we believe will generate long-term value for Capco shareholders. Capco’s world-class estate, strong balance sheet and significant financial flexibility ensure that the company is well positioned. Whilst we can expect continued market uncertainty in the near term, we are confident about the long-term fundamentals and prospects for the West End and prime central London.” 

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