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Tue 1st Aug 2017 - Update: Greggs, C&C Group, Leon and Easyhotel
Greggs reports 3.4% like-for-likes in First Half: Greggs, which operates 1,800 retail bakeries in the UK, has reported total sales up 7.3% to £453m in the 26 weeks ended 1 July. Company-managed shop like-for-like sales were up 3.4%. There were exceptional costs of £8.3m relating to a previously announced restructuring. Pre-tax profit including property profits and exceptional charges was £19.4m. The company reported continued like-for-like sales growth from coffee and breakfast, its ‘Balanced Choice’ range including new salads and drinks, plus hot food choices and traditional savoury favourites. A total of 61 new shops opened, with 19 closures – it expects around 100 net new shops for the year as a whole. Chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “The business has traded in line with our plans during the first half of the year. We have made good progress with our strategic plans and remain confident of future prospects although we remain alert to short-term pressures on consumers’ disposable income. Over the year as a whole we expect to deliver results in line with our previous expectations as well as further progress against our strategic plan. We opened our first ‘drive-thru’ shop at Irlam, Greater Manchester, in June and have been encouraged by its popularity, indicating a demand for further drive-thru locations. We also continued to expand the estate in the south-west of England and in Northern Ireland whilst adapting our formats to suit locations such as garage forecourts. Our pipeline of new shop opportunities remains strong and we continue to expect around 100 net openings in the year as a whole. We have made great progress in the transformation of our shop estate with most shops trading in a food-on-the-go format. We updated 107 shops in the first half of 2017 as part of our shop refurbishment programme. In line with our normal shop refurbishment cycle, over the next couple of years we are entering a period where a lower number of refurbishments will fall due. In order to maintain a steadier number per year we now plan to refurbish 130 shops in 2017 and a similar number in the following two years, before returning to the more recent run rate of 200+ shops from 2020. We have successfully deployed our new central forecasting and replenishment system to all of our shops ahead of plan. This has been the most significant process change that the business has ever embarked upon and I am delighted with the way that our project team and retail colleagues have prepared for and managed the new ways of working. Already we are seeing benefits in terms of product availability and the administrative tasks required of our shop colleagues have been simplified. Inevitably there has been some increase in costs in the transition but there is a clear net benefit already and we will build on this as we learn to harness the benefits of this new technology. We made further progress with the plans to invest in the transformation and development of our supply chain in the first half. Our Edinburgh bakery was closed in May, with production and logistics activities transferring to our Glasgow site where we have invested to absorb the additional work. This investment has included the first of our new consolidated manufacturing platforms, in this case for the production of Yum-Yums. The commissioning has gone well and we are already delivering improved product quality, consistency and efficiency. We are now placing orders for the next phase of investment, the first of which will be the consolidation of cake and muffin production at our Leeds site. Once again I must give credit to the teams working in our supply chain operations to implement these strategic changes whilst maintaining service levels to our shops and customers.”

C&C Group hires interim finance boss: Cider and lager maker C&C Group has hired Jonathan Solesbury as interim group chief financial officer for a period of 12 months, effective today. A former SABMiller director of group finance, Solesbury held a number of senior roles during his 22 year tenure with the global drinks company. Initially responsible for evaluating and executing new business opportunities across Central Europe and Africa, he was then tasked with continuing the growth of the Asian business, whilst establishing and consolidating leading positions in China and India. He later oversaw the acquisition and subsequent integration of SABMiller’s Colombian business and transformation programme in Latin America. Jonathan served the company as an executive director on many boards across multiple jurisdictions and as chief financial officer for the Latin American and Asian regions. Leading operational and regional teams across Africa, Asia, Central & South America, North America and Europe, Solebury has extensive international and emerging market experience and played a prominent role in building SABMiller into one of the world’s largest and most successful beverage companies. Stephen Glancey, group chief executive, said: “We are pleased to announce Jonathan’s appointment as interim group chief financial officer. Jonathan brings broad, deep sector expertise and provides continuity to our finance function. His experience and track record will enable him to immediately contribute to the capital allocation decision making process and our strategic direction.” The process to recruit a permanent group chief financial officer is ongoing.

Leon launches campaign to improve gut health: Leon has formed a partnership with a healthy gut expert to launch a gut health campaign called ‘Feel Sunny Inside’. Dr Megan Rossi is a Registered Dietitian with a PhD in gut health, working as a Research Associate at King’s College London investigating nutrition-based therapies in gastrointestinal health. She also runs a private gut health clinic on Harley street. The ‘Feel Sunny Inside’ menu introduces live culture yogurt to every breakfast menu and LA Brewery Kombucha into ten restaurants, alongside existing fermented Kefir drinks which have been proven to contain 1 billion good bacteria in each serving – all to help get your gut feeling good. Dr Rossi said: “Over the past decade it has become clear that boosting the health of your gut is one of the most effective ways to enhance your overall health and wellbeing. I am so thrilled to be working with LEON towards our joint goal of translating the ground-breaking science into delicious and accessible food. I also see our partnership as an incredible opportunity to spread the word about gut health which I believe will make a true impact on the health of the Nation.”

Easyhotel unveils plans for Islington site: The board of Easyhotel has announced the conclusion of a comprehensive review of options, including the sale or partial sale of the building, for its Old Street hotel in London which began on 30 March 2017. Following a pre-application meeting with Islington Borough Council on 8 June 2017 to discuss a potential extension to the upper floors of the building (3rd – 5th floors, the hotel is on the lower floors) the Council has indicated that it has no objections in principle, subject to conditions, to an extension to the building for offices. The board, having taken specialist advice, believes that restoring and extending office use on the upper floors should maximise value from the property. The group will, therefore, be retaining a smaller 92-bedroom hotel and applying for planning permission to add additional floors to the building, for use as office accommodation. The group will close the third and fourth floors of the hotel, removing those rooms from inventory from 3 October 2017. The group further intends to refurbish the 92-bedroom hotel, to complement the ‘new look’ format hotels it has recently opened in Birmingham and Manchester. This is anticipated to improve Revpar in the hotel, and combined with the additional office space, is expected to drive shareholder value from the site. The refurbishment of the hotel is likely to result in a short term adverse impact to earnings as the works are carried out. The existing (larger 162-bedroom) Old Street hotel made an Ebitda contribution of approximately £1.7m (before the allocation of central overheads) in the group’s last financial year ended 30 September 2016. Guy Parsons, chief executive of Easyhotel said: “After undertaking extensive due diligence and considering all the options available to it, the board considers the retention of the 92-bedroom hotel, together with an extension to the upper floors for additional office accommodation, to be the best outcome for shareholders. We have been delighted with the performance of our newly opened hotels in Birmingham and Manchester, which are trading strongly, and the refurbishment of Old Street will enable us to improve Revpar in the hotel. The group will submit a full planning application for an extension to the building in due course.”

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