The Company closed all its pubs, inns and hotels on 20 March 2020 following the directive from the UK Government.
The Company then quickly took all possible steps to secure the business, protect cash flow and take advantage of the support measures put in place by the Government, these include:
- Over 90% of the workforce are on furlough leave;
- Only allowing staff in key roles and those securing our properties to work – which means that the business is operating and being safeguarded by a skeleton team;
- The Board and Executive team all taking pay cuts of up to 30%;
- Taking advantage of business rate exemptions across its retail properties, which are available for the 2020/21 business rate period;
- Assisting pub tenants to claim grants across all the tenanted pub estate which will assist the tenanted pubs to survive and come through this crisis;
- Claiming pub grants directly where they are available for the pubs that it operates on a managed basis;
- Negotiating either suspension of contracts with suppliers, or reduced costs during the period of disruption;
- Agreeing payment deferrals with HMRC for VAT and PAYE;
- Temporarily pausing deficit contributions to its defined benefit pension funds; and
- Putting all non-essential capital expenditure on hold for the foreseeable future.
The Company renewed its banking facilities in Q1 2020 and at 31 March 2020 had net debt of £65.4m with total facilities of £82m, giving headroom of over £16m. The Company is monitoring cash flow very closely and is also giving consideration to whether it is necessary to take advantage of one of the Government backed loan schemes as a prudent measure to ensure that it has sufficient facilities to get through the recovery period and return to normal trading levels.
The preservation of cash is an absolute priority, as a result the Company has taken the decision that it will not pay a final dividend for the year ending 31 March 2020. Future dividends will be reviewed when normal trading levels resume.
Annual Report and Annual General Meeting
The Company has been granted a three-month extension to the normal filing deadline for Annual Report and Accounts by Companies House, as it is not possible to have the year end results audited until the working environment becomes normalised. This means that the approval of the Annual Report for the year to 31 March 2020 and Annual General Meeting will not be until the Autumn.
The Company was trading very strongly prior to this crisis and we hope to return to that level of trading in the future once our properties are allowed to open by the Government. It is working through its reopening plans to prepare for an environment where restrictions are in place.
The Company is committed to taking the difficult and necessary decisions to preserve the long-term future of the business and in the future once again flourish for the benefit of all its stakeholders.
The Company benefits from the fact that it owns the freeholds of all of its properties and is therefore not under pressure to pay third party landlords rent, as others in the industry are having to do. However, it does have financing obligations in the form of interest payments to its funders.
The Company has been through troubled times before and has a strong asset base and an experienced management team to assist in finding a pathway through the challenging times ahead.