Langton Capital – 2016-04-12 – Whitbread, Richoux, Enterprise Inns, Egypt & other:
A Day in the Life:
I think I’m going to have to throw my coffee machine out of the window.
Either that or more sedately drop it in the bin because it’s taken to spurting water in random directions such that it frequently folds over the filter paper and dribbles straight through to the jug without so much as seriously dampening the coffee on the way through.
And that can be very disappointing because, though the liquid may initially look about the right colour, it loses its vigour as soon as it’s introduced to any milk and you feel as though you’re drinking something that’s been wrung out of a barista’s apron.
Indeed, it’s probably worse than forgetting to put the teabags in the teapot and pouring yourself a cup of hot water because the illusion is maintained until the very point that the liquid hits your taste-buds at which point you know for sure that you’re drinking something that would be better used to water the office plants. On to the news:
PUB, RESTAURANT & DRINKS PRODUCER NEWS:
• Chris Rogers, MD Costa, is to leave Whitbread. Leaves next week though will be available till end-June.
• Whitbread’s Costa subsidiary is to replace MD and former CFO Chris Rogers with Dominic Paul, now at Royal Caribbean. WTB says ‘Dominic is responsible for the international business outside of the company’s US operations and has been particularly focussed on growing the business in Asia Pacific and China where Royal Caribbean is now the largest cruise brand. Dominic joined Royal Caribbean International in 2010 from bmi, where he was Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, having developed his earlier career in customer service and operational roles in the airline industry at British Airways, Go fly and easyJet.’
• WTB Costa changes. Group Chair Richard Baker comments ‘Chris has made an immense contribution to Whitbread over the last eleven years. He joined Whitbread as Finance Director in 2005 and played a leading role in the transformation of the Group to a more focused and profitable business. He then took the helm at Costa in 2012 and under his leadership Costa has grown rapidly from under 2,500 stores to over 3,200 today and is firmly established as the UK’s favourite coffee shop chain. On behalf of all my Board colleagues, I should like to thank him for all he has done over the years and, more recently, for his support and typical professionalism in enabling a smooth succession planning process.’
• WTB directorate change. Rogers adds ‘I have loved being part of Whitbread and Costa during what has been a period of enormous value creation and growth, and after eleven years, I have decided that now is the right time for change. Costa is a great business with tremendous people and I wish them, Alison and all my colleagues at Whitbread every future success.
• WTB directorate change may fuel rumours re Costa IPO. Whether this is more or less likely, however, is unclear
• 21-strong Richoux reports FY numbers. Revenues +2.7% at £13.03m, adj. EBITDA £1.64m, net profit £365k vs £420k. No dividend for the year
• Richoux FY says opened 3 sites in year and 3 further secured for 2016. Cash of £4.4m at year-end. Chairman Philip Shotter reports ‘this solid set of results, which show a marginal increase in EBITDA, reflect the on-going development of the Group. Three restaurants opened during the period with an additional restaurant already open now this year; two further sites to open during the coming year, and another site secured for 2017, with all of these restaurants being funded from the Group’s cash flow and significant cash reserves’.
• Richoux FY: Re the outlook, Richoux says ‘the Group is well placed to continue its development this year.’ It adds ‘the increased cash reserves of £4.40 million means that the Group is well placed to fund not only these openings but also a number of other restaurants, once appropriate sites have been identified.’
• Enterprise Inns has announced that yesterday it bought back 52,001 shares for cancellation at between 100.25p and 102p each
• Last summer’s hot and dry weather hitting the European hop harvest, alongside increasing consumer demand, is set to put small brewers’ margins under pressure. The potential hop shortage has pushed up prices of some varieties by as much as 50%, according to industry insiders, while other hops are up to five times more expensive or not available at all.
• A surge in American tourists to Cuba following an easing of travel restrictions has overwhelmed the island’s breweries, leading to shortages of local beers. Last year Cuba received a record 3.5 million visitors, up 17% on the previous year, as the number of American visitors to the island jumped by 77% to 161,000. Cuba’s main brewer, Bucanero, is reportedly considering opening a new plant to keep up with demand.
• The Bank of Scotland’s latest PMI points to a decline in output in the Scottish private sector, suggesting the country’s downturn is intensifying. Purchasing managers noted ‘harsher business conditions’ in March. Meanwhile the latest BDO survey indicates Scotland’s slowing service sector is ‘knocking the confidence’ of Scottish firms, which is now at its lowest level in more than two years.
• Woodforde’s Brewery has been bought by a consortium of private investors following the decision by owners Dennis Nudd and Mike Betts to retire. James Hughes, formerly of Diageo, Nick Dolan from Real Ale, and Rupert Fraser will assume control, although managing director Rupert Farquharson will remain at the post he has occupied for five years. Woodfordes is the largest brewery in Norwich, producing 20,000 barrels a year, and employing 32 people.
• Over 10,000 British pubs, equivalent to one in every six, has closed since the early years of the new millennium. While a variety of pressures including wage hikes, the smoking ban, alcohol duties, and cheap supermarket competition have taken their toll, JD Wetherspoon owner Tim Martin has recently pointed to a trend in cash-strapped young people to save their money and socialise via social media as a more telling factor.
• Moody’s has warned that Britain’s clothing retailers face sluggish profit growth over the next 18 months due to weaker consumer spending. Marks and Spencer, Next, and Bonmarche, to name a few, have all reported disappointing numbers over the Christmas period and early 2016, while UK textile, clothing, and footwear sales have reduced every month since August 2015. Ernisto Bisagno, senior analyst at the ratings agency, said: ‘We expect lower earnings growth in the next 12-18 months, or at worst a slight contraction. This will be driven by a modest increase in revenues which will only partly offset ongoing price competition and the increasing labour costs as a result of the new minimum wage.’
• Egypt’s new tourism minister says he is confident tourists will return to the country, although visitor numbers continue to fall. Yehia Rashed told Reuters: ‘I am very hopeful, optimistic about the future of tourism into Egypt,’ and hopes to attract 12 million tourists by the end of 2017, despite the number of visitors falling by 40% in the first quarter of 2016 compared to 2014.
• American authorities have warned citizens travelling to Turkey of ‘credible threats to tourist areas, in particular to public squares and docks in Istanbul and Antalya’. The country has suffered several attacks in major cities recently at the hands of both the Islamic State and Kurdish militants, leading to Saturday’s emergency travel warning from the US embassy in Turkey.
• Tourism to France grew by 0.9% to 84.5 million in 2015 despite the Paris terror attacks, although visitor numbers fell by 15% in November and December.
• Manchester airport was used by a record 23.5 million people in the 12 months ending 31 March 2016, with numbers up 11% year-on-year in the final month. The top five destinations were Amsterdam, Dublin, Tenerife, Dubai, and Alicante.
• The $12.4bn merger of Starwood and Marriott hotels has been approved by shareholders, and Anbang’s $14bn offer has been withdrawn due to ‘market considerations’. Starwood CEO Thomas B. Mangas commented: ‘There is no doubt that this transaction puts our company on the best path forward and we remain excited about the opportunity this combination will create for our stockholders, associates, owners and guests.’
• Pools betting company Sportech yesterday reported that the appeal case relating to a £97m VAT repayment claim on the “Spot the Ball” game was heard by the Court of Appeal on Friday. The company says it has been advised to expect a decision from the Court of Appeal within three months. It says that shareholders will be updated as soon as more information is available. The claim was first submitted in 2009. Initially, it was found in Sportech’s favour (in 2013) but the HMRC won on appeal to the Upper Tribunal.
FINANCE & MARKETS:
• A survey from the British Chambers of Commerce shows that growth in the UK is set to soften further, with key indicators ‘at a low ebb’. A number of ‘global and domestic uncertainties’ have taken their toll on confidence and investment, while official figures show industrial output fell by half a per cent in February year-on-year.
• World markets: UK down slightly yesterday but Europe higher. US markets lower but Far East up in Tues trade
• Oil price up over last 24hrs at around $42.70 per barrel. Easing back a little currently.
• Goldman Sachs is to pay $5.06bn to settle claims that it misled mortgage bond investors between 2005 and 2007. The US justice department is said to have preserved the right to bring criminal charges against Goldman and nor does the agreement release any individuals from potential criminal or civil liability.
Retail Roundup from Nick Bubb:
BRC-KPMG Retail Sales for March (5 weeks to April 2nd): Given the early fall of Easter, today’s survey for March should have been quite good, but in fact the outcome was a very disappointing -0.7% LFL and the BRC ties itself into knots trying to argue that the weak Food sales figures resulted from the fall of Easter Sunday…Even so, there was very little growth in Non-Food sales in March, with Clothing and Footwear the worst performing sub-sectors, despite continuing decent Online Non-Food sales growth of 9.5%…
Today’s Press and News: The main news seems to be that Tesco have decided to dump their investments in Dobbies Garden Centres and Harris & Hoole (ahead of tomorrow’s final results) and that Pets At Home have decided to dump their prospective new FD because of his perceived involvement in the Target Australia accounting scandal…
News Flow This Week: First thing today we get the ASOS interims and the ScS interims. Tomorrow then brings us the Tesco finals, the Halfords Q3 and the WH Smith interims. Then on Thursday we get the Debenhams interims, the JD Sports finals, the Burberry Q4, the Poundland Q4 and the Mothercare Q4.
News Flow Next Week etc: The ABF (Primark) interims are next Tuesday and the N Brown finals are next Wednesday, whilst the ONS Retail Sales figures for March are out next Thursday. The week after brings the Carpetright pre-close on April 26th, together with the Boohoo finals, with the Home Retail finals on April 27th and the Howden trading update on April 28th. Nick Bubb – firstname.lastname@example.org