Hartford's stable results paves

Related tags City of london Minimum wage

way for growth says Thomas Hartford Group's results for the 28 weeks ended 9 April 2005 showed turnover up 12.8% to £6.9m compared to £6.1m in...

way for growth says Thomas

Hartford Group's results for the 28 weeks ended 9 April 2005 showed turnover up 12.8% to £6.9m compared to £6.1m in 2004, although pre-tax profits fell £30,000 to £118,000.

Trading in the second half is 3.7% up on comparable sales. Margins are said to be in line with expectations.

EBITDA improved to £481,000 compared to £469,000 in 2004 and gross margin remained stable at 74.1%.

Stephen Thomas, chairman of Hartford Group, said: 'In a market that continues to challenge, these results demonstrate that Hartford has a stable and financially-robust core business.

'Our challenge, looking forward, is to grow our number of trading units, with financially attractive acquisitions.

Thomas added: 'Wage costs have increased marginally, principally as a result of increases to the minimum wage. During the period there has been increased investment in marketing activity, both in terms of central resource and in-site activity.

'This has been particularly focused on sites where we have needed to reposition the offer to improve the connection with the local customer base.

'The infrastructure is in place such that the business can significantly increase the number of trading sites with minimal increase to the central cost base.

Hartford spent £365,000 on capital projects in the first half, compared with £359,000 in the equivalent period last year.

The funds have been used to refurbish Jamies Ludgate Hill, London, together with more minor projects at the Common Room in Wimbledon, Jamies Bishopsgate and Willy's Wine Bar.

Gearing remains stable at 28.9% (28.5% in 2004). Interest cover was 2.7 times (3.3 times in 2004). The group has paid no corporation tax for the period and continues to have substantial tax losses.

Said Thomas: 'Management remains focused on moving Hartford forward to the next stage in its growth and is currently looking at a number of opportunities for securing earnings enhancing acquisitions.

'To this end, I am delighted to announce completion of the acquisition of Brodie & Knight Limited for £1.4m, funded from current debt facilities.

'This business operates two profitable wine bars in the City of London and Canary Wharf, complementary to our existing estate. The business has been acquired on a cash-free, debt-free basis and comprises solely of the trading assets of the two wine bars, which between them generate annualised turnover of £1.5m.

'Goodwill of £400,000 will arise from the acquisition, which will contribute fully to earnings in the new financial year.

The deal brings the group's estate to 22 bars and one restaurant, the Canyon in Richmond.

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