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Wed 16th Jun 2021 - Update: Commercial evictions, Fridays, Black Sheep and Christie Group
Ban on commercial evictions to be extended until 2022: The ban on commercial evictions introduced during the pandemic is set to be extended until 2022. The Telegraph reports ministers are expected to announce today (Wednesday, 16 June) the grace period for business tenants will continue for at least another six months, pushing back the planned expiry at the end of this month. Restrictions on landlords using laws that allow them to recover rent arrears by taking control of a tenant’s goods and selling them are also expected to be extended. A new arbitration mechanism will be introduced in legislation to help landlords and commercial tenants resolve disputes over bad debt, it is understood. The decision follows a government call for evidence, launched in April, about the best way to withdraw or replace these protections in place for businesses, in order to support the millions of jobs that they underscore. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government warned then: “If there is evidence that productive discussions between landlords and tenants are not taking place, and that this represents a substantial and ongoing threat to jobs and livelihoods, the government will not hesitate to intervene further.” Prime minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “We're considering responses to a recent call for evidence on the next steps with commercial rent and we'll set our response shortly.”

Dozens of companies upgrade to offer entire staff unlimited access to Propel Premium: Dozens of companies have upgraded to offer their entire staff unlimited access to Premium, which costs £895 plus VAT per annum. Among the companies upgrading are Hawthorn, Greene King, Vapiano, Beds & Bars, Papa John’s, CKE Restaurants, Welcome Break, Dodo Pizza, Deloitte, Sky, Molson Coors, Heineken, Access Group, Boutinot Wines, KBE Drinks and Bidfood. Premium subscribers get two updated databases per month. One is a database of multi-site companies, now numbering more than 1,800 (and operating 58,787 sites) and the second, The Propel Blue Book of Turnover and Profitability provides a five-year profit and turnover overview of the sector’s top 250 companies, whose turnover is £27bn. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email to sign up.

Electra to call de-merged Fridays parent company Hostmore: Electra Private Equity has announced Hostmore as the name of the new parent company for Electra's hospitality brands, which are intended to be demerged by Electra and admitted to the main market of the London Stock Exchange late in the third quarter of this year. These brands comprise Fridays, the rejuvenated American themed casual dining brand, and the start-up, 63rd+1st, which is a new city-based, cocktail-led bar and restaurant brand. The company stated: “Hostmore has been created to provide a platform for the development of hospitality brands to supplement the continued growth of Fridays and 63rd+1st. Its management team, to be led by Robert B Cook as chief executive and Alan Clark as chief financial officer, has a successful track record of building and leading businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors. Hostmore businesses are, and will be, defined by iconic brand experience, vibrant heritage and sector-leading technology. Its strategic focus will be to optimise its brands, aligning them with evolving consumer demands and delivering personalised customer engagement, optimising experience and efficiency through digital leadership. Its mission is to make every customer experience relevant and engaging, to celebrate the unique heritage and character of its brands, and create environments where people have fun and feel welcomed. Following the demerger, Hostmore will seek to add rapidly growing, early-stage businesses to its portfolio of complementary brands, exploring opportunities to extend its offering in experience-led hospitality and leisure concepts. As announced at Electra's half year results in May, the board has decided the optimal outcome for Electra shareholders in implementing the final stages of its strategy is likely to be achieved through a capital markets solution for both Fridays/Hostmore and Hotter Shoes. The plans for, and progress towards, listing both businesses are in-line with the board's expectations. As part of the listing processes Electra remains focused on ensuring both Hostmore and Hotter have the appropriate balance sheets to maximise their future potential and value as standalone publicly listed companies. This includes ensuring Hostmore is well positioned to benefit from current opportunities for growth. In light of this and of the announcement of the delay to lockdown easing to 19 July, Electra will continue to assess the optimal capital structure for both businesses and the potential sources of capital. In the four weeks since reopening for dine-in customers on 17 May 2021, Fridays stores have recorded like-for-like growth versus the equivalent period in 2019 of 12.5%. This like-for-like growth excludes the contribution from new stores including that of the first 63rd+1st store, which is trading in line with management expectations following its opening on 24 May 2021.”

Black Sheep Coffee opens debut site in France: London-based speciality coffee shop operator Black Sheep Coffee has made its debut in continental Europe, with an opening in France, Propel has learned. The company, which operates 36 sites in the UK – with the majority in London, has opened a site in the Rue La Boetie in Paris, and said it would be the “first of many”. It also hinted a launch in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam, could also be on the cards. The business, which operates two sites in Manila in the Philippines, also hinted it plans to launch its first site in Birmingham by the end of the year, in Colmore Row. Propel revealed earlier this year that Black Sheep Coffee planned to open its first site in Scotland, in Edinburgh. It is believed to be in talks on a site at the St James Quarter development for an opening later this year. Propel understands Black Sheep Coffee, which in 2019 raised £13m in new investment towards its expansion, has also applied to open a site in the former Body Shop unit in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. The business, which also operates four sites in Manchester and one in Oxford in the UK, is to further strengthen its presence in the capital, with openings lined up near Baker Street station and King’s Cross/St Pancras stations. 

Christie Group – the recovery continues: Property firm Christie Group has reported “the recovery that first emerged in the second half of 2020 continues”. In an annual general meeting statement, chairman David Rugg said: “The business is progressing well and has traded in line with market expectations. We are seeing strong performances across most parts of our professional and financial services division. Our UK businesses have led the way with progress, despite being locked down again from early January 2021. By the end of May, Christie & Co had exchanged or completed contracts on the sale of 164 hospitality businesses alone and a retail business for every working day of the year so far. Central and eastern Europe have contributed to an encouraging start, but the Mediterranean countries await the advent of this summer season. Elsewhere we are currently experiencing strong buyer demand across each of the trade sectors we serve. The breadth of our sector specialisations is illustrated by our involvement in a variety of transactions. These include the sale of The Essex Smile Centre in Rayleigh to Dentex Healthcare Group, one of the fastest growing dental corporates in the UK; Red Mist Leisure, an award-winning pub company to Red Lion Holdings for a guide price of £20m; the 181-bedroom Hilton Warwick/Stratford-upon- Avon; the 1,000-year-old five-star Schloss Pichlarn Hotel in the Austrian Alps; 27 Pizza Hut Delivery units to Starboard Hotels, which is diversifying its hospitality portfolio in a growing sector; seven petrol stations in northern England to Certas Energy UK; and the former Rastrick Independent School & Day Nursery in Brighouse. Our appraisal practice, Pinders, has experienced an upturn in the number of valuations commissioned in respect of asset-rich businesses raising additional loans to tide them over for short-term cash flow requirements. As businesses reopen, we expect lenders to seek our assistance in reviewing their exposure to businesses impacted by the pandemic. Pinders intends to relaunch its graduate training programme in July. Its building services division is operating at pre-covid levels and is recruiting. At Christie Finance we have now processed our last applications through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. The successor Recovery Loan Scheme is being utilised by the challenger banks for both secured and unsecured lending. Such lending is typically only accessible via an accredited broker. Therefore, for Christie Finance the outlook for loans granted is further improved. We were pleased to raise the funding for the management buyout of Auckland Care, a specialist provider for adults with learning difficulties. After the lockdown ended, our licensed trade stock auditing business, Venners, is now experiencing a return of clients as premises opened internally (in England) from 17 May. We anticipate Venners schedule of visits will be more than 50% operative by the end of July. Earlier this year, we were pleased to complete 98 change valuations pursuant to the takeover of Brains pubs by Marston's. We expect further progress once our remaining hospitality markets fully reopen for business both here and in mainland Europe. Based upon current momentum we look forward to a strong second half.”

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