City Diary — 4 February

By The PMA Team

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: City diary, Public house, Marston

Elliott: stepped down from Greene King
Elliott: stepped down from Greene King
All the latest gossip and rumour from the City.

Marston's barrel mystery solved

Everyone agreed that Marston's tenanted boss Alistair Darby gave a near-perfect performance when asked to account for fellow pubcos (and their bosses) at the December committee meeting of the Business Innovation & Skills committee MPs.

Don't worry, though, because City Diary has found a slip of the tongue after re-reading the transcript. Darby reported that a Marston's leased pub in Cockermouth, the Bush, sells 10% of the entire output of the Cockermouth brewery, which would be somewhere in the region of 3,500 to 4,000 barrels per annum.

City Diary called Darby with fingers and toes exposed to help with the mathematics; the outcome is that 10% may be a slight overstatement with a turnover of 500 barrels per annum at the Bush. The Bush was closed by the devastating November floods in Cockermouth. Latest news is that Easter is the likely reopening date, owing to the very slow drying-out process. "An Enterprise pub on the high street reopened for Christmas after they got industrial dryers in. Unfortunately, this is too big a risk in an old pub like the Bush," says Darby.

It's extra time at Meadow Lane

Troubled Notts County was given 28 days to pay off its creditors by the High Court last week. Chief among them is the taxman, who is owed £324,206. Joining the taxman's action was Marston's, which is owed a chunky £95,000. HM Revenue & Customs presented a winding-up petition over the outstanding debt, but the taxman accepted that a 28-day adjournment would be in order for the club to settle the debt in full.

However, HMRC pointedly applied for that period of grace to be marked "final". Marston's was reported as being concerned that any fresh funds received at Meadow Lane would be consumed by ongoing operating expenses.

Housing market slump hits Hydes

The good folk at Hydes had their hands full last year (see story on page 13). The annual accounts filed at Companies House also reveal that the slump in the housing market caused some pain as well. H

ydes bought Bamford Hall and turned it into a top-tier managed house called the Joshua Bradley, which is taking £1.03m per annum (a handy £224,000 above budget). But the development was to be funded by the disposal of two sites for retirement homes. The company reports: "Unfortunately, the credit crunch and the downturn in the housing market hit our proposed purchaser hard and they withdrew from both deals."

Feeling chatty at Enterprise

Enterprise Inns has held a couple of forums with its tenants on the basis that, you know, it's good to talk. City Diary hears that there's even one planned for Oop North quite shortly.

Keeley Whiting on Xmas bonanza

Whiting & Hammond, the terrific managed multiple headed by former Brunning & Price director Brian Keeley Whiting, had an extraordinary December. The first week saw sales up 12%, while the second week was up 12%. Then pre-Christmas snow saw like-for-likes down 7%. Christmas week up until 28 December recovered to 11% plus. And then the fifth week up until 3 January saw like-for-likes hit 19% plus. The first snowy weeks of January were, however, less than brilliant, Keeley Whiting tells City Diary.

Elliott steps down with a smile

David Elliott stepped down from the helm of Greene King's tenanted division last Friday. He ought to be sporting at least half a smile after signing off with an average EBITDA per pub down just 0.8% in recent times. As Bank of America Merrill Lynch said: "This is the best recovery seen in the tenanted space so far from the major pub companies."

Suburban's pubs reflect market

The administrator's report on Suburban Style Bar, the operator of 21 bars in the Yorkshire area, provides insights on the state of the property market. Eight of the nine leaseholds were sold without a penny in premiums to Simple Trick; a total of £34,401 was paid for stock and fixtures and fittings. However, an offer was accepted for nine of the freeholds in excess of a valuation carried out by Fleurets. And, for the record, the estimated deficiency in respect of creditors is £3.53m.

JW Lees chuffed at Punch bargains

The annual accounts of brewer and pub operator JW Lees, filed at Companies House last month, can barely hide the company's pleasure at picking up 10 corkers from Punch Taverns during its pub jumble sale of 2009.

The company states: "2009 brought on the credit crunch with all the well-publicised disasters in the banking world and has forced certain pub companies to sell prime pubs. With great excitement, the company has taken advantage of the situation and purchased 10 pubs — six managed houses and four tenancies."

Whitbread spills beans on Costa

Ever wondered what kind of cash those coffee shops take? Whitbread gave up running tenanted pubs and brewing a while back, thinking that there might be better margins in coffee and muffins than there is in beer. The company held a day for analysts last week and offered the following breakdown of the profits it makes across its Costa sites. High-street Costas, 24% of the total, average just over £8,000 a week in sales. At an average profit of £73,000 a year, pay-back on the original average investment of £215,000 is three years.

Related topics: Other operators

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