HCM Issue 4 2021

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Ken Campling Amid reports of a bid to buy the business, HCM was keen to get an update on the state of play at the Bannatyne Group. We sent Kate Cracknell to (virtually) speak to the FD

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n 10 April, it was reported a US operator had made an unsolicited offer of £250m to buy Bannatyne – an approach Duncan Bannatyne, founder and CEO, says he rejected. His observation was: “It’s quite surprising that someone’s made an offer, given the current circumstances.” It seems the door is not closed, though, as in the same news reports, Bannatyne indicated he would leave the business if he accepted an offer, saying: “The ball’s in their court. I would need to feel it’s going to a good home and that I’m getting good value for it.” When it comes to valuation, in spite of Bannatyne having injected £10m into the business, the group is carrying debt into 2021 as a result of lockdown, so it will be interesting to see what – if any – further offers are made. While the company has made it clear it will give no further statement on the subject, we felt now would be a good time to speak to Ken Campling – de facto CEO – for an overview of the business in the aftermath of a year of disruption. Campling joined Bannatyne following an £8m fraud case against the previous FD who received

a prison sentence for the crime. He has been charged with steadying the ship and works closely with Duncan Bannatyne on a “daily basis”. Tell us about the impact of COVID-19

As with most companies in the leisure industry, we suffered greatly through the three lockdowns. In terms of financial performance, in our last year pre-COVID – ending December 2019 – we made a pre-tax profit in the region of £12.5m. For the year ending December 2020, we’re likely to report a pre-tax loss in the region of £20–21m. Each month we were closed in the UK’s latest lockdown cost us roughly £2.5m and from the first quarter of this year, we have pre-tax losses of around £7.5m to start clawing back now we’re open again. How are membership numbers looking?

As a group-wide figure we’re talking in the region of 34–35 per cent total attrition over the year of on-off COVID lockdown – March 2020 to March 2021. That equates to around 70,000 members. The majority were lost as we came out of the first lockdown: even though people were ©Cybertrek 2021 Issue 4 2021

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