Langton Capital – 2020-06-26 – PREMIUM – Marston’s, Intu, DP Poland, Revolution, 888, Sportech etc.:
Marston’s, Intu, DP Poland, Revolution, 888, Sportech etc.:
PREMIUM EMAIL – PLEASE DO NOT FORWARD:
A DAY IN THE LIFE:
So, get this.
Bullfinches eat cherry blossom. Various insects live in it and, when the cherries emerge, life in the Western Hemisphere descends on our garden & eats them.
At various points we had magpies & squirrels hanging off the tree with blackbirds swooping in and out of the branches while the rabbits looked on enviously.
And then the cherries ran out and the world and his dog are now eating our raspberries where, because those pesky squirrels are beefy little creatures, all the canes are being pulled down, stripped, beaten and left humiliated for us humans to take what’s left.
And the blackcurrants are getting similar treatment, it’s hell out there, just hell.
Anyway, looks like we’ll be buying our soft fruit down the supermarket again this year. Follow us on Twitter at @brumbymark. On to the news:
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REOPENING PLANS: Pubs & restaurants are legally allowed to open from 4 July. But how many will open? And when, how, in what shape etc.? 26 June 2020:
How many units will be open on 4 July, 31 July, 31 August?
• Thanks to those who dropped us a line to share their reopening plans.
• There is some consternation as to the choice of date. July 4th is a Saturday. A Monday or a Tuesday may have been better as it would have allowed operators to build up to the weekend.
• There is some concern that supply chains will not be able to cope. Everyone wants everything at the same time. This is not the case when units are operating normally.
• This may be behind some thinking re opening a couple of days, a week or even a month after the first available day.
• Casual dining units that have been open for click & collect and delivery are more likely to open on or near 4 July than are units that have been stone-cold closed for 14 weeks.
• Where public, we have referred to operators by name. Where the operator has not been mentioned discussing reopening in public, we have not.
• One operator tells us that its businesses that have been involved in takeaway and delivery will open immediately. Only a fraction of its bar restaurants will open around mid-July, most of the rest ‘over a number of months’ with a fraction not reopening at all.
• A regional bar-restaurant operator is to open all of its sites on 4 July. A number of them are fully booked for that day, albeit on reduced capacity as a result of 1m distancing.
• A regional pub and restaurant operator will reopen its restaurant on 9 July but its pub will not reopen at all.
• Greene King will reopen around two thirds of its units on 6 July (Monday). The group will avoid whatever crush (across suppliers, staff, competitors and customers) that will happen on 4 July.
• Café Nero has said that a half of its UK estate should be open by the first week of July. Around 250 stores are currently open for takeaway.
• Shepherd Neame will open two thirds of its pubs ‘before the end of July.’ The thinking is similar to that outlined for Greene King, above. Shepherd Neame says ‘in order to protect our customers and team members, we propose to reopen our managed estate on a phased basis.’
• Franco Manca’s David Page told The FT earlier this week that the chain would open six units at a time, starting on 4 July. It would be driven by levels of demand.
• JD Wetherspoon will open all of its units (excluding Wales & Scotland) on 4 July.
• Marston’s says this morning that it expects to have 85% to 90% of its units, both managed and tenanted, open on or very shortly after 4 July. It will not open units in Wales or Scotland and nor will it open around 35 units in England. These are large, drive-to and food-led units. The company wishes to asses demand for a period before committing to opening.
• Bowling alleys are not in the group of businesses allowed to reopen on 4 July (and nor are gyms or swimming pools). Hollywood Bowl says that it is ready to reopen immediately it is allowed to do so. it believes it may be loss-making in the early days but, as an anchor tenant in many of the areas it which it operates, it hopes to be able to pull business in and stabilise the ‘new normal’ as rapidly as possible.
• JW Lees says that it will open the bulk of its pubs ‘from 4th July to 5th August.’ It will not be opening its pubs in Wales until guidance changes.
• Bar operator Drake & Morgan is set to open two units in the first week after 4 July and will assess demand thereafter.
• CGA has hazarded a guess that a fifth of units will be open in the first week and two fifths in the first month. Around an eighth of units could be open on 4 July itself.
• See below for holiday companies.
MARSTON’S H1 NUMBERS: Marston’s has reported Covid-impacted H1 number but says that, post-Carlsberg, it will be a focused, pub-retailing group. 26 June 2020:
Marston’s has this morning reported H1 numbers for the 26wks to 28 March and our comments thereon are set out below:
• Marston’s reports that H1 revenues slipped by £43m (down to £510.5m), some £40m of which was due to the impact of Covid-19
• The group reports H1 profits down by £25m at £9.4m against £34.2m last year. Some £18m of the fall is believed to be as a result of Covid-19 disruption.
• Of the non-Covid c£7m drop in H1 profits, around £3m is due to the adoption of IFRS16 and £2m is due to disposals.
• Underlying profitability is some £2m lower due to wet weather in November and the two storms, now long-forgotten, in February
• EPS has fallen to 1.2p from 4.5p and there is no H1 dividend.
Balance sheet and debt:
• Marston’s reports that its ongoing debt reduction programme bore fruit in H1 with cash flow some £55m up on the previous half-year (to positive £3m from an outflow of £52m
• Disposals were stepped up to £61m (for the sale of 168 pubs) and debt fell by £39m to £1,379m excluding lease liabilities.
• Financing developments as a result of Covid-19. The group has extended its Revolving Credit Facility (RCF) by some £70m until November.
• The covenants attaching to Marston’s securitisation have been amended for the September and March half-years
• Marston’s currently has £312m drawn on its RCF (which comprises an original £360m and a £70m extension) meaning that there is currently (as at 5 June) some £118m of headroom
• Cash burn is running at £10m per month (with no retail revenues mitigated by no business rates and the benefit of staff furloughing).
• The margin of safety is significant if there were to be a secondary lockdown in calendar Q3 or Q4 (by which time the Carlsberg brewing JV should have completed)
• Post the Carlsberg JV, the RCF falls to £280m but, and there are assumptions in here re cash burn, partial reopening estate etc, this should only be around £100m drawn
Asset base & flexibility:
• Overall, Marston’s has around £2bn of freehold properties, only £1.2bn of which is in its securitisation
• Most of its pubs have beer gardens, many are suburban and the group is under-represented in London, which could be at tough market
• Marston’s estimates that 85% to 90% of its pubs (both managed and tenanted) should reopen on or close to 4 July.
• Units in Wales and Scotland will not be permitted to open and around 30 sites in England, mostly drive-to, food-heavy units will not reopen immediately as the group wishes to see how food demand develops
• The group has no units that it deems too small to reopen legally. All of its lodges will reopen
• CEO Ralph Findlay comments ‘our immediate priority is to prepare our pubs to reopen on 4 July. Whilst there is short term uncertainty as the sector emerges from lockdown, we are focussed on offering a great guest experience, synonymous with Marston’s hospitality, to welcome our customers back into our pubs within a safe trading environment.’
• Mr Findlay says ‘the challenges facing the sector should not be underestimated and much rests on consumer confidence which may take time to rebuild.’
• The company says ‘as the industry navigates its way out of lockdown, we will continue to urge Government for continued support for pubs and wider hospitality, through the reopening phase and thereafter through business rates relief and cuts to VAT, to protect jobs, the economy and the invaluable role the pub plays in communities nationwide.’
• Marston’s concludes ‘looking ahead, our transformational deal with Carlsberg positions the Company well for the future. Post completion, Marston’s will be a focussed pub and accommodation business with a significantly strengthened balance sheet, well placed to rebuild trading momentum and leverage the market opportunities available to us over the medium to longer term.’
• Marston’s has reassured that it has substantial headroom and, with its burn rate at manageable levels and the Carlsberg money to arrive in the autumn, it is secure.
• As far as trading goes, as for that across the whole of the industry, this is something of an unknown.
• The company knows the breakeven levels for each of its pubs, but this cannot easily be translated into a groupwide figure. Certainly, having freeholds rather than leases does bring the breakeven level down.
• Post the Carlsberg transaction, Marston’s will be a focused pub retailer.
• Marston’s does not at present foresee problems in bringing its staff back from furlough and it believes that its supply chain (where the drink side is in its own hands) is secure.
• Menus will be stripped back somewhat, and prices are more likely to go up than down but, now more than ever, the behaviour of the consumer will be hard to judge.
• Forecasting is not yet possible but, looking longer term, pandemics are rare, hostelries have been around since biblical times, Marston’s debt is reduced and will fall further and it has a well-financed, largely-freehold estate. The group will host a conference call for analysts at 8.15am and will hold a capital markets day in the autumn.
PUB & RESTAURANT NEWS:
Signs of life:
• The Local Data Company has reported a sharp uptick in activity across both high streets (+63%) and shopping centres (+52%) during the first week in which non-essential stores have been allowed to open. Retail parks were +64%.
• LDC says ‘out of town locations have been the most resilient due to the higher percentage of grocery and essential retail trading throughout lockdown (e.g. hardware stores), maintaining activity levels between 30% and 40% of ‘normal’ levels during the lockdown period.’
• LDC says it believes ‘Primark saw the biggest increase when compared to the average across the industry, rising to 41% of normal levels.’ Less buoyant were London postcodes (central London) in general which ‘continue to see activity at less than 15% of normal levels, with no major increase last week due to the lack of office workers, tourists and limited access to the capital without using public transport deterring shoppers.’
• LDC says ‘interestingly, London postcodes are seeing a much slower return in consumer activity which in large part we would put down to home working and a lack of tourism, whilst out of town and retail park locations leading the way in terms of recovery thus far.’
• This should benefit operators such as Restaurant Group. LDC says the short term trend it has identified ‘is the reverse of what we were seeing prior to the pandemic, with retail parks actually seeing a consistent increase in vacancy rates across the country before COVID-19 hit. However, they have been afforded new interest from shoppers as the easy parking and larger units make retail parks ideally suited to safer shopping and social distancing.’
• The British Beer & Pub Association has welcomed plans to ease restrictions on outdoor eating & drinking saying ‘the move will help pubs on their road to recovery, as it reveals today that pubs in England face a 30% reduction in their capacities as they reopen under one metre plus social distancing conditions.’
• The BBPA says outdoor licenses will ‘allow pubs to use terraces and car parks as dinning and drinking areas, subject to a streamlined local authority approval process.’ CEO Emma McClarkin says ‘al Fresco pubs will be welcomed by publicans and customers alike. It will give pubs more outdoor space to serve more customers with, which will help them on their road to recovery.’
• UKH is of the same view, saying ‘businesses will need all the help they can get to return to healthy trading and protecting jobs, so simplifying the licensing process and reducing red tape will be a great help. Opening up outdoor spaces for venues could be a vital lifesaver and mean the difference between a successful reopening or business failures and job losses.’
• The eased rules could last for two summers after which they may or may not be renewed or made permanent.
• Licensing solicitor Poppleston Allen considers the move to ease outdoor restrictions saying ‘MPs will consider all stages of this important bill in one day on Monday, 29 June 2020.’ The Bill allows off-sales without the need for an application, including delivery of alcohol. It says ‘premises that are not currently authorised to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises at all (in other words “on sales only”) will be authorised to provide off sales until 30 September 2021 without the need to make any application to the licensing authority.’ Poppleston Allen says, re pavement licences, that these will be fast tracked for a fee that cannot exceed £100.
• Big Hospitality reports that ‘operators from across the hospitality sector say they’ve seen a huge surge in bookings as they prepare to reopen their doors at the beginning of next month.’ Whether this is 1) borne out by footfall a week Saturday and 2) whether it lasts, will be key to industry profitability or otherwise going forward.
• Still no advertising on the traditional voucher sites for the casual diners. They now have an opening date but, it would seem, many would like to assess underlying demand before they consider discounting online.
• Certainly capacity will be well down. Not all operators are reopening immediately – and not all are reopening at all. Demand, also, will be down but, at this stage, the level of the drop is hard to know with any degree of certainty.
• The Telegraph says it will be all-change on the High Street with restaurants set to ‘serve up [an[ al-fresco dining revolution.’ It says ‘outdoor eating will be the name of the reopening game for eateries, with tables set to become a common sight on streets and footpaths.’ The government is to cut red tape and various councils seem to be moving in that direction.
• Marston’s shareholders yesterday voted by a majority of 98.7% to 1.3% to approve the creation of the company’s proposed JV with Carlsberg. The European competition authorities still need to look at the deal but there is no suggestion that there will be a problem. The deal is slated to complete around September or maybe October. Marston’s says ‘completion of the Transaction remains conditional on clearance by the relevant competition authorities. The Transaction is expected to complete in the third quarter of 2020.’
• Intu ‘likely’ to appoint administrators.
• Property giant Intu has updated on discussions with key stakeholders saying that ‘unfortunately, insufficient alignment and agreement has been achieved’ and adds that ‘the Board is therefore considering the position of intu with a view to protecting the interests of its stakeholders. This is likely to involve the appointment of administrators.’ The group says ‘a further announcement will be made as soon as possible.’
• DP Poland is to update on trading at its AGM where it will say that ‘trading in 2020 has started broadly in line with management’s expectations. COVID-19 has had relatively little impact on our business in comparison to other businesses in our industry as we have been able to keep open all our stores and our 2 commissaries operating without interruption.’
• DPP adds that System Sales and System Sales were down 14% and 10% respectively for the month of March. However, performance recovered in the following months, with LFL System Sales up by 3% and System Sales up by 6% in each of the months of April and May.’
• DPP says ‘a positive impact of COVID-19 has been a reduction in our food and labour costs and in some of our rent costs. In addition, the recruitment market has improved for us, in terms of both availability of staff and labour costs. However we have also incurred some additional costs, principally in connection with safety and cleaning, across our operations to meet the requirements necessitated by COVID-19 regulations.’
• The company quotes Bloomberg as saying that the drop in GDP for Poland should be the smallest across the EU. CEO Iwona Olbryś says ‘these unprecedented times continue to pose an uncertain trading backdrop. As such, we remain unable to provide any guidance for the full year. However, while the COVID-19 crisis presents our industry in Poland with some major obstacles, I believe that we are in a relatively good position, given in particular our focus on delivery and online channels.’
• Revolution Bars Group has announced the results of its Open Offer saying that a total of 75m shares will be issued at 20p.
• JW Lees has launched its ‘JW Lees C-19 safe’ campaign to assure colleagues and guests that they will be safe when returning to JW Lees pubs when they re-open on 4th July. The company says ‘we are now planning the re-opening of our pubs with 1m+ distancing which will take place from 4th July to 5th August with all pubs being individually risk-assessed and applying the ‘JW Lees C-19 safe’ guidelines which we have been busy developing over the last three months.’ The group will not yet be opening its units in Wales.
• William Lees-Jones said ‘we have been planning for this day for such a long time and I feel confident that the team will now execute the plan that we have been carefully crafting.’
• Premier Foods yesterday reported that 9 of its directors and PDMRs purchased around half a million shares in the company in aggregate at 65p per share investing a total of £325k of their own money in the future of the company.
• Pret a Manger has told its landlords it will pay only 30% of its rent bill for Q3 as sales are running at only 20% of normal levels. In a letter to landlords seen by the Financial Times, Pano Christou, Pret chief executive, says ‘we feel strongly that the Pret brand has every reason to believe it will thrive again, but we are currently in the eye of the storm.’ Mr Christou says ‘the mid to long term remains very unknown for us.’
• The FT reports that UK retailers paid ‘less than 15% of the rent due’ when Q4 payments due. Q3 rental payments were due last Wednesday. Some observers are speculation that landlords may receive as little as 10% of what they are due.
• Stonegate Pub Company has extended support to its publicans within its leased and tenanted business. Ei Publican Partnerships has now extended support totalling some £28 million.
• London bakery chain Percy Ingle is to close all 48 of its stores permanently after 66 years in business.
• The parent of the Chuck E Cheese chain of restaurants in the US, CEC Entertainment, has filed for Chapter 11 protection. It says this ‘process will allow us to strengthen our financial structure as we recover from what has undoubtedly been the most challenging event in our company’s history and get back to the business of delivering memories, entertainment, and pizzas for another 40 years and beyond.’
• Constellation Brands reports that it is to sell its Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy brand.
• Crussh Fit Food & Juice Bars has announced the appointment of Simon Foster as the company’s new CEO.
• McDonald’s is to permanently close its former flagship site in Times Square, New York.
• The Olive Garden, which owns the LongHorn Steakhouse chain in the US, has said that social distancing requirements mean that its capacity will be limited and that only 91% of its restaurants have been able to open to date.
• The US is threatening to introduce tariffs of up to 100% on beer, gin and vodka made in France, Germany, Spain, and the UK.
• Sport & Covid-19. Pubs are required to take steps to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices. This is likely to include bans on shouting or singing. It may be incompatible with showing live sporting fixtures.
• Table service is required ‘where possible’. There is a lot of guidance and relatively few hard and fast rules.
• Demand may become an issue at some point as redundancies continue to be announced in the wider world. Royal Mail is to cut 2,000 management roles.
• Waitrose boss James Bailey has said Waitrose would never stock chlorinated chicken.
HOLIDAYS & LEISURE TRAVEL:
• TravelSupermarket says that demand for foreign holidays has doubled in the past week ahead on the anticipation of air bridges being confirmed with selected European countries.
• The UK’s quarantine requirements on returning UK holidaymakers could be dropped for many popular countries in the coming days.
• The travel press says ‘the phone has not stopped ringing’ for staycation companies.
• EasyJet is to restart international flights next month.
• Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels have confirmed they are to open next month
• Jet2 has proposed cutting staff and routes. Union Balpa said Jet2 had informed it of a proposed 102 pilot redundancies and 380 redundancies among cabin crew.
• The Travel Network Group is set to acquire rival travel agency consortium Global Travel Group from dnata Travel group.
• Hotelplan UK has warned that it could cut up to 27% of its UK workforce. The company operates the Inghams, Ski Total, Esprit Ski, Flexiski and Santa’s Lapland brands as well as Inntravel and Explore Worldwide.
• STR reports that the US hotel industry saw gross profit per available room fall by 110% in May (i.e. move from profit to loss). May represents a slight improvement on the minus 117% seen in April.
• STR also reports that US hotels saw occupancy fall by 44%, room rates fall by 32% and REVPAR fall by 60% in the week to 20 June.
• 888 has updated on trading saying that it is ‘pleased to confirm that 888 has continued to trade well since that date [end-Q1] and despite some moderation to revenue growth in recent weeks, average daily revenue in the year to date has been 34% higher than the prior year.’
• 888 CEO Itai Pazner says ‘we are pleased with 888’s trading during the year to date which has resulted in the Board now anticipating that adjusted EBITDA for 2020 will be significantly ahead of its prior expectations.’
• Sportech has updated on trading (its AGM is today) saying that ‘revenues were impacted in Q2-2020 across all business areas.’ It says ‘the lack of spectator attended sporting events, potentially for the remainder of 2020, will be an obvious challenge.’
• Sportech CEO Richard McGuire adds ‘challenges obviously remain, especially as our business resumption timetable is governed by external factors. However, as a Group we have no debt, a stable balance sheet and we intend to emerge from this pandemic operationally and technologically stronger.’
• Liverpool has won the Premier League for the first time in 30yrs.
FINANCE & ECONOMICS:
• Sterling up a little at $1.2428 and €1.1072. Oil higher at $41.61. UK 10yr gilt yield down 4bps at 0.16%. World markets broadly higher yesterday with Far East mixed in Friday trade. UK set to open up around 60 pts (as at 6.30am).
• A further 1.5m Americans filed for unemployment benefit last week.
START THE DAY WITH A SONG:
The song has been furloughed. See you on the other side.
RETAIL WITH NICK BUBB:
• Tesco: Ahead of today’s AGM, Tesco has released some good-looking Q1 sales (for the 13 weeks to May 30th), with the UK core business up 8.7% LFL (driven by Online up 48.5% and Tesco Express up 9.9%) and Booker broadly flat (despite the collapse of its Catering trade). The only negative is a big bad debt provision at Tesco Bank.
• Nike: After hours in the US the sporting goods giant Nike released some pretty terrible Q4 results: the consensus Q4 revenue estimate was -c28% on last year, but the outcome was -38%, the gross margin was smashed by 820 bps and there was a huge bad debt write-off…and it may be a surprise that the shares were only 4% down in after-hours trading.
• Today’s Other News: The mighty Boohoo has announced a huge new Management Incentive Plan, that appears to replicate the massive award given to CEO John Lyttle, with £150m on offer if the share price can be pushed up to 600p over the next years (through organic growth), pushing the market cap to £7.6bn, with two-thirds of that going to the co-founders Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane. At the other end of the Retail scale, the embattled Card Factory has announced the surprise departure of CEO Karen Hubbard, with almost immediate effect, with Paul Moody stepping up to be Executive Chairman to host the planned Strategy Review on July 28th…And poor old Intu Properties, the beleaguered shopping centre landlord, has announced that its creditor discussions have not reached a conclusion on the terms of a planned standstill agreement ahead of tonight’s deadline and that the business is therefore
• BDO High Street Sales Tracker: The BDO High Street Sales Tracker today for medium-sized Non-Food chains flags that in w/e Sunday June 21st, Total BDO LFL sales (including a handful of Homewares and Lifestyle retailers, as well as Fashion retailers) were still down by c7% (down c54% in Store sales, but up by c98% in Online sales), despite the reports of strong pent-up demand after the re-opening of non-essential stores in England last Monday…
• Trade Press: Neither Retail Week magazine or Drapers magazine have been published this week, alas, but both have plenty of news and opinions on their websites, eg the Executive Editor of RW thunders in his column that we should “Raise a glass – responsibly – to lockdown relaxation”, whilst there is a feature on “Five socially distanced shopping trends that are here to stay”. And the Drapers website has a feature on “Has Covid-19 crushed fashion retailers’ beauty ambitions?”, as well as a focus on “Retail’s rent quarter day reckoning”.
• News Flow Next Week: The highlight of next week is the Sainsbury Q1 update on Wednesday, but the week kicks off on Monday with the AGM of the embattled Motor dealer Lookers (the AGM will actually be held before the final results…). Wednesday also brings the Topps Tiles Q3, whilst the ABF (Primark) update and the Sainsbury AGM are on Thursday and the M&S AGM is on Friday.