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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 6th Jan 2014 - Breaking News - Analyst: trading updates helped by strong December
Douglas Jack - we expect positive festive trading: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has forecast that the forthcoming trading update season will be positive, aided by good trading over December. He said: “Although storms, floods and power cuts will have affected some companies, the message from some private operators is that trading has been good, aided by strong Christmas bookings and Christmas/New Year’s Day falling on a Wednesday. Easy comps due to snow in the second and third weeks of January 2013 should slightly benefit companies making Q1/2/3 updates (Spirit on 14 Jan; Marston’s on 21 Jan; JD Wetherspoon on 22 Jan; and both Fuller’s and Mitchells & Butlers on 30 Jan) over those making full year trading updates (Domino’s Pizza on 8 Jan; and The Restaurant Group on 9 Jan). Snow also provides easy comparables for March: in fact, January (-2.4%) and March (-3.0%) were the Peach Tracker’s only negative months in Jan-Nov 2013. Promotional activity is no higher than usual this January. The duration of JD Wetherspoon’s January sale is one week shorter this year. However, Mitchells & Butlers is being more aggressive with: Harvester offering 20% off food and drink bills over £25; Crown Carveries offering two pub meals with unlimited side servings for £6.50; Toby Carvery offering 20% off food; and Sizzling offering 25% off food. Operators should trade ahead in Q1 in our view, during a favourable period when wholesale food price inflation (2.6%), rents (<2%), wage inflation (2-3%) and customer mortgage costs are subdued. The pubs need to trade ahead in Q1, prior to tough weather comps in June-July; whereas comps should remain easy for restaurants and Domino’s Pizza, which is also likely to be the biggest winner from the FIFA World Cup. Our key picks for 2014 are: Domino’s Pizza (BUY; TP 710p) due to growth and cashflow; Mitchells & Butlers (BUY; TP 500p) due to potential growth, valuation and pension deficit reduction; and Spirit Pub Company (BUY; TP 100p) due to growth and valuation.”

Clear Leisure to launch Lasagnette in the UK: Clear Leisure is to launch family format Lasagnette in the UK, a restaurant format incorporating the merchandising of a cartoon character, having acquired 51% of the company for no financial cost. The company stated: “This acquisition allows the company the opportunity to launch in the UK and Ireland the Lasagnette family restaurant format and includes the merchandising rights for the cartoon character. As part of this planned re-organisation and development of the company’s restaurant operations, Clear Leisure expects to shortly sign a new Letter of Intent to acquire the worldwide rights to the name of a historic restaurant in Italy which has been awarded a Michelin star.” Clear Leisure has also increased its interest in the Italian sushi restaurant chain, Sosushi from 51% to 100%. Consideration takes the form of a credit compensation agreement between the vendor and the Company. Michele Collini, a business management MA graduate from Bocconi University, Milan and a former audit partner at PKF Italia SpA, will be appointed as the new chief executive of Sosushi. The company added: “Following the completion of the above expansionary moves, creating a significant, international restaurant group, the company is exploring the possibility, in conjunction with its UK advisers, to spin-off its enlarged restaurant division into a separate, potentially listed entity. Such a move, which should be seen as part of the company’s clear focus to provide transparency on the underlying value of its assets, will further allow the separated restaurant group to raise additional expansionary and working capital, without directly diluting Clear Leisure shareholders.” A new chief executive is being sought and is anticipated that a further update on this appointment will be provided before the end of February this year.

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