City Diary — 17 February

By The PMA Team

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pub company, Public house, Bar

Linacre: runs New Pub Company
Linacre: runs New Pub Company
All the latest rumour and gossip from the City

Robbie pops into Iceland

You'll remember how remarkable it seemed at the time that property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz seemed to have unlimited cash to boost his stake in Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) in 2007. Fresh documents reveal the extent to which Icelandic bank Kaupthing had its lending valve permanently open when it came to Tchenguiz. Before Kaupthing fell in October 2008, Tchenguiz's empire was lent about €2bn (£1.6bn) by Kaupthing in Iceland and a further €305m (£257m) from its Luxembourg and UK subsidiaries. The total value of loans to Tchenguiz firms had risen to the equivalent of 25% of Kaupthing's reported equity base in early 2008. Additional lending helped take it over 40% before the bank failed months later.

Losses limited at Leon Restaurants

Tchenguiz hasn't entirely disappeared from the on-premises scene. He maintains an investment in funky new-age deli-chain Leon Restaurants, which has nine sites. Tchenguiz's interest in Leon is overseen by trusted wingman Tim Smalley, who sits on the board. Latest accounts indicate progress — losses after tax dropped to £627,000 in 2009 from £1.8m the year before. Turnover rose from £7.8m to £9.3m.

Stonegate gets into gear

Stonegate Pub Company's acquisition of 333 M&B wet-led pubs has seen a host of bottom-end sites from M&B's drive brands drop into its hopper — a small group of O'Neill's, Sizzling Pub Company venues, an Ember Inns site or two. Even the odd All Bar One has gone Stonegate's way. Conversions to unbranded pubs have

been the order of the day. Over in less-than-leafy Croydon, Diary notes that an All Bar One has become Bar Ten.

LM Funerals is on the market

Diary does like to keep track of Punch old boys and girls as they make their way in the world. Little more than six months after the arrival of former Punch leased business boss Deborah Kemp, the LM Funerals business she runs is on the market. Decent margins in funerals, though. In the year to 30 June 2010, the company recorded profits of £2.1m on revenues of £11.6m. It currently runs no fewer than 69 funeral parlours — LM Funerals has more than doubled its parlour portfolio since Sovereign's acquisition of the business in 2003. Sources indicate that the undertaker has its eye on other undertakings to snap up too. Diary must say a £10m price tag on the business sounds a bit, er, Punchy though.

Linacre's New success story

Diary once bestowed the kiss of death on Massive Pub Company boss Peter Linacre by informing him his company was the "most successful of its type in the sector". Two companies on from Massive, Linacre now runs the seven-strong New Pub Company, which are all Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company leases. So how's he doing? Turnover ticked up to £5.25m in the most recent year, an increase from £4.5m the year before. "We are not interested in further acquisitions — we intend to expand within the estate by developing further opportunities and improving the business," he tells Diary.

Goodbye Mark, and good luck

It feels a bit incestuous, but Diary feels compelled to write a line or two about his M&C Report colleague Mark Stretton. He leaves the editorship of M&C tomorrow to start a new life in the dark arts of communications and public relations (he'll be returning for a last hurrah to host the prestigious Retailers' Retailer award on 2 March). His new company, Fleet Street Communications, has a couple of heavyweights on board — Seal Communications founder Steve Dann and former Punch customer services director Francis Patton. Suffice to say, if he's half as good a PR man as he's been a trade journalist for the past decade or so, he'll be very good indeed. Good luck, fella.

Emeny's enemy is the Daily Mail

Good to see Fuller's group MD Simon Emeny takes a principled stand when it comes to vultures of the press. He tells the current edition of the BII (British Institute of Innkeeping) mag: "Pubs are the home of responsible drinking and I object to the vilification of our industry by the likes of the Daily Mail. It's unjust. We provide papers in our pubs for our customers to read. This does not include the Daily Mail." Bravo, Simon.

Only five pub deals in Dublin in 2010

The property market may be becalmed in the UK, but it has reached a virtual standstill in Dublin. Only five pubs changed hands in the city last year, with values reaching a new low as investors and banks went cold on the sector. The total value of deals was under €5m (£4.2m), compared with €180m (£151m) at the height of the market in 2006 — when 37 Dublin pubs changed hands. The low value of the transactions was partly because three of the sales in 2010 were for leasehold interests, not for the premises themselves. Auctioneers Morrissey's said that the total value of transactions fell from €34.5m (£28m) in 2008, to €22.1m (£18m) in

2009 and €4.8m (£4m) last year.

Marston's new-build programme hit by blaze

A small wrinkle in the Marston's new-build programme. Two members of staff at the £3m Running Hare in St David's Park, Ewloe, Deeside, North Wales, opened last August, have appeared in court charged with arson — a fire caused £500,000 of damage at the pub recently. The pub is currently closed and not expected to open before the start of April.

Small is well with pub opening

Talking of Marston's, it's good to see the firm is working down a list of major conurbations in which to open new pubs, and has reached Crediton in Devon. Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin cites Crediton (population: 6,837) as one of the smallest towns to house one of his pubs — it opened a site there about a decade ago. Now Marston's is set to open the Red Deer there in May.

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