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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Mon 25th Sep 2017 - Update: Authentic raises £3m plus, Shaftesbury refinances
Authentic Alehouses raises £3m plus: Leeds based Authentic Alehouses has raised over £3 million through Crowdstacker. The company launched its funding bid to revive the fortunes of currently under-performing pubs by attracting a new generation of customers with a menu of quality artisan food and drink, updated décor and a wider variety of entertainment. Sheree Murphy, who played Tricia Dingle in Emmerdale, and former EastEnders star Shaun Williamson joined Authentic Alehouses in a radio campaign supporting its plans to combine the traditional community spirit of a local with a very modern business approach. They claimed soap pubs like the Woolpack and Queen Vic have fallen behind the times in terms of looks and what they offer to customers, reflecting a need for change in many real life pubs. Murphy, who pulled pints in the Woolpack for almost a decade, says off-screen the soap stalwart would struggle in a competitive 2017 food and drink market. “There are so many alternatives out there now, so just relying on the same old pie and pint, and hoping people will come out of habit, doesn’t work anymore. Pubs need to look at what their customers like – lots more people love to cook now and experiment with ingredients – and they value the care and craft that goes into making the food and beers they order when they go out.” Authentic Alehouses aims to raise £5 million on the Crowdstacker platform, offering investors an attractive 6.5% pa interest rate through a peer to peer loan. Backers are also given the potential to earn income tax-free by investing via Crowdstacker’s Innovative Finance ISA. It plans to use the capital to refurbish sites in prime locations, streamline and modernise their operation to cut down on wastage, and introduce higher quality food, a broader range of new drinks and more family-orientated entertainment. Allan Harper, chief executive of Authentic Alehouses, said he was thrilled to reach £3 million and to have the support of so many investors. “Our radio campaign with Sheree and Shaun endorsed exactly what we believe and what we intend to implement. Soap pubs might not have to survive in the real world, but so many others do and we’re confident we know what it will take to make them relevant and successful again.”

West End landlord Shaftesbury reports refinancing, buoyant West End market: West End landlord Shaftesbury has reported progress with its refinancing – and lettings within its portfolio. It stated: “We have concluded important initiatives during the period to strengthen further the group’s financing arrangements, taking advantage of the current interest rate environment and lenders’ appetite to provide secure long-term finance. As previously reported, earlier this month we issued £290 million first mortgage bonds due 30 September 2027 with a coupon of 2.348%. The proceeds were used to repay bank facilities totalling £75 million and reduce drawings against our revolving credit facilities, with the balance being retained as cash. This significantly increased our financial resources whilst further diversifying our sources of finance; bonds now represent 45% of our debt funding with the remainder provided by term loans (34%) and bank facilities (21%). Following the recent increase in forward interest rates, we have taken the opportunity to cancel our remaining £125 million of legacy interest rate swaps at a cost of £57.9 million, equivalent to a reduction in EPRA NAV of 21 pence per share. Following this refinancing activity, we now have circa. £305 million of resources available to invest further in our portfolio. Our blended cost of debt has reduced, on a pro-forma basis, by 40 basis points to 3.3%. The marginal cost of future borrowing is 1.1% so, on a fully drawn basis, our weighted average cost of debt would fall to 2.8%. London’s West End’s prosperity is underpinned by a unique combination of its appeal to Londoners and domestic and international visitors, as well as its diverse business community, which brings a large local working population. The West End has been busy throughout the summer, with a notable increase in overseas visitors, who are benefiting from the weakness in sterling. Although national consumer spending trends are unclear, trading in our locations continues to be buoyant. Demand for the smaller accommodation we traditionally offer is good. Lettings, lease renewals and rent reviews are being concluded on terms in line with our expectations, and vacancy levels remain low. As we have previously noted, larger space requires occupiers to commit to significant investment in fit-out and substantial rental commitments and we have always expected letting periods to be longer for than for smaller space. Current political and macro-economic uncertainties are now showing signs of slowing occupiers’ decision-making processes. Whilst we continue to see a broad range of interest in our larger space, the time taken to conclude larger lettings is increasing but we will be patient in selecting occupiers that meet our long-term objectives. Marketing of the flagship space Thomas Neal’s Warehouse, Seven Dials, continues, and we are confident we will secure a trading concept consistent with our aspirations and compatible with particular local planning and licensing constraints. Our scheme in Central Cross, Chinatown, completed at the end of May 2017, and is now being marketed. We are well advanced in agreeing terms on two of the three restaurants, and three of the four smaller cafés are either let or under offer. The retail units fronting Charing Cross Road have attracted considerable interest, which we are currently evaluating. Westminster City Council’s scheme to create a new public square in Newport Place and improvements to Newport Court, which we are funding, will commence in October 2017. The contractor will shortly be handing over the retail and restaurant units at 57 Broadwick Street, Carnaby, both of which are already under offer. Marketing of the office accommodation has recently commenced and we expect handover early in 2018. In the period since 1 April 2017, we acquired two restaurants, at a total cost of £9 million, bringing total purchases for the financial year to £37.1 million. The availability of properties to buy in our locations, and which meet our strict criteria, continues to be limited. As reported in August 2017, we have entered in to a contract to forward purchase a long leasehold interest in 90-104 Berwick Street, Soho at a price of £38.5 million. Located at the southern end of Berwick Street, the property is being redeveloped to provide 12,500 sq. ft. of retail, a 5,500 sq. ft. supermarket, a 2,000 sq. ft. restaurant and a 110-bedroom hotel. Both the hotel and supermarket have been pre-let. The redevelopment is expected to complete in late 2018, which will, subject to satisfying various contractual conditions, trigger the completion of the acquisition.”

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