Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Pubs are chronically underinvested and run down because for the last twenty five years their pubco owners, like Marston's, have run their tied leased estates into the ground. Pubco's rip off their tenants with high rents and beer prices that are double open market cost. Their lessees cannot afford to invest in their businesses, their customers abandon them, the licensees fail and the pubco's churn the pubs through tenant after tenant again, and again, each tenant investing small amounts as they move in, enough to keep trade going for a short while but not enough to stem the rot and turn the business round. This effectively asset strips their pubs until they are so dilapidated, broken and unfit for purpose that no one will ever rent them again, at which point the pubco sells them off and uses the proceeds to pay interest on the gargantuan loans they raised to buy the pubs in the first place or to invest in their managed estates - the pubs they maintain well and keep clean and tidy - looking after their own interests. See @FairDeal4YourLocal and www.fairdealforyourlocal.com
Saturday, November 30, 2013
The burger was fine, the bun is soft and bland but squeezes well and keeps the patties and contents in pretty well.
BUT £12.75 for a bacon cheese burger and medium fries. What a fucking joke.
So many chips it's impossible for a normal person to eat them - I couldn't manage even half of them - the bag you can't see in this shot was half full. Really annoying.
Bottle water is £1.95 for 500ml. Tap water is free. The condiments on the customer side of the divide are pumped Heinz tomato ketchup only. This ketchup tasted overly sweet to me. Don't know that I've noticed that particularly with Heinz before. Maybe these American importers have a special tainted, unbearably sweet supply just for their own store.
I would have been less pissed off by it all if there was some Mayonnaise but I couldn't be bothered to go up to the counter and ask. By the way, Heinz Mayo is disgustingly sweet as well so I was also put off by an assumption that if the Five Guys did have Mayo for punters it would be the same shite as the ketchup.
The lighting in the place is vile, the decor harsh and sharp. The music is crap. It's amazing what being on the corner of one of the busiest bits of footfall in the UK can do for trade.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Re the £10K increase I've seen irrational price rises like that around pubs quite a lot. I think the market is confused around their values. That pub in Berwick I mentioned, the one that went for under £100K, I got in touch with the new owner shortly after he got it, he's an estate agent based mid Northumberland, and as I was talking on the phone to one of his staff, who confirmed it was avaliable, offered £150K, could hear him laughing in the background saying 'tell him I wouldn't accept twice what he's offering'. That was two years ago, it's still empty, an eyesore in the middle of Berwick, a listed building that could easily be trading and making Berwick a better place... To continue the ramble
From the little I've observed of small time developers there seems to be a significant proportion who are basically useless at development but have somehow through the vagaries of the universe come into a wedge of capital they play with in the property market and it affords them a comfortable living, dabbling around whimsical or ill conceive projects which, even if they come into completion making practical no sense to anyone and leaving permanent scars that blight the urban landscape, give a return on investment that keeps the developer fat and slack and believing, against all evidence to the contrary, they are creating a legacy that will be admired by bank accounts to come.
When this type of developer makes a really bad decision on a property, one that leads them to shelling out more than they anticipated or which becomes clear won't return the investment, they try to back out gracefully by putting it on the market for more than they paid for it, reasoning that they shouldn't be penalised financially when it was circumstances rather than their own bad decisions that led to the potential loss making situation... And they should at least, if there is any natural justice in their privileged world, be able to pass the losses they made onto the next purchaser who will be buying a property that's worth a lot more anyway, just because it's been landbanked while in the fallow period it's been subjected to in the dead hands of the thoughtful and visionary dull witted developer
Saturday, November 16, 2013
My ex is a teacher. She's a very good teacher... She trained at London Institute and has taught in inner city schools that all have had Outstanding status. She now teaches in a Junior and Infants' school that has had a very good reputation for decades, where both our sons were educated, where we both have been governors and know the staff and the children, their parents and wider community well. It's in the middle of some of the poorest, most socially and economically deprived Wards in Britain. It consistently achieves excellent results across all its intake... When you visit this school there is a palpable feeling of good community, the children are well socialised, friendly, polite, helpful and well behaved.
My parents were teachers, my father a Head for decades them County Education Advisor. My mother lectured Social Sciences and head of department at a large County Technical College in a totally male dominated engineering and mining background culture. She must have had to kick ass to get there and stay there...
Oh and I went through the state education system myself, went to a junior school in Newcastle (Tyne), with a hard working working class intake, that was good enough for its time but makes the one my kids went to look like Eton. A measure of that may be that I was the only boy in my year to go to grammar school... Then I had an all boys' Grammar school experience and then, as that school blended with the neighbouring all girls' Grammar and two Secondary Moderns and became one of the largest Comprehensives in the country, had some Learning of how disruptive politicking can be to kids' - everyone's - education. I studied at degree level in UK and the States in several institutions and diploma and another degree in landscape design and have done several intensive extra curriculum further education experiences on various programmes to do with the development of Civil Society. And I learned on the job in lots of restaurants, clubs, bars and pubs and have spent the last twenty five years learning first how to be an employer then how to be a negotiator and hard nosed businessman against a recalcitrant thick skulled devious incompetent and dishonest pubco. And along the way picked up 'how to represent yourself in High Court' and how to be a campaigner for fairness, freedom and common sense in the pub sector, which has helped open my eyes and understanding to the dysfunctional nonsense we are steeped in in every other area of life.
My Father said to me "Mark, my first ever Head teacher said to me at my first job in 1954: 'Roy, if only one government would give teachers a whole (political) term to allow us to implement the 'improvements' they insist on imposing on us, every year, every government no matter what shade they are, just once, we might have a chance of actually being able to teach children properly. As it is we're always changing everything we do and no one is ever able to teach effectively and the children are the ones who don't get the education they deserve". He then went on to say that in his forty years in teaching there never was a year when a government let the professionals get on with teaching.
Being primed by this insight I noticed the constant pressure of unnecessary flux and change for the sake of achieving 'better standards' at every level of schooling in my own experience and then through the eyes of friends who are (often exhausted, stressed and fed up) teachers, many of whom I met through their being customers of my businesses...
So I've lived my entire life around education practice and theory, even working alongside it as a governor... As most of us do.
My ex's school was Ofsteded a few months ago and, after decades' consistently getting Good to Outstanding and occasionally Could Improve in one subject area, in a catchment that's one of the hardest, toughest, mixed bags you can imagine, in Europe let alone the UK. Ofsted inspectors stormed in, gave shit assessment on criteria completely different from any previous benchmarks which, in one to one feedback, left four teachers crying, they slammed the school and dropped it into 'Poor, Must Improve' category.
There's an ongoing serious complaint with Gove's office about that dreadful shambles - this is a department that responds exactly as Brandon Lewis does, like 'not bovvered', but in posh tones, or a Parking Enforcement Office - routinely ignoring correspondence while stepping up a war of attrition and laissez faire harassment on the street.
This week the school was inspected by the LEA, Southwark, and panned even harder by a bunch of jumped up Goodies. One of them gave one teacher an 'inadequate' assessment ofter a teaching observation, on a lesson plan which the Ofsted inspection (remember they trashed the school over all) had declared to be 'excellent' with 'Outstanding' elements. When the teacher challenged the local inspector about this and told them about Ofsted's view she was called 'a liar' to her face.
You may think being called a liar in sick circumstances is taking the biscuit. You may think, as a responsible employer, that if you treated an employee like that, you'd find yourself in a Tribunal being fined several thousand quid for being a totally incompetent jerk who doesn't understand the basics of responsibility in their position of power.
Think that's a little bad? Put it into context with this: My ex's inspector told her that she spends too long on registration in the morning... "Ten minutes for registration is too long. You're wasting valuable learning time, the children should be focused on learning activities from the moment the school day begins. You could have white boards ready before the come in for them to get working on, for example" etcetera there was more.
My ex is head of reception, the children in her charge as one of the few significant responsible adults in their lives are aged Four to Five.
This country is a backwater of ignorance and stupidity.
Saturday, November 09, 2013
OR: Zombies On the Street Corners of Britain.
Punch Failing as Accounts Highlight Inescapably Dodgy Situation
Summary Prepared 4 November 2013 by A B Jacobs
1. There are 4096 pubs stated as being worth £2,397 million secures against borrowings, short and long, of £2,619 million. Shareholders’ funds are stated as being £295 million.
2. The average debt per pub equates to £640k [last year £593k] and they indicate the average value per pub of £643k [last year £597k]. Even if the extraneous “other” assets and borrowings were set aside the answer would be similar average debt £581k [£540k] and pubs valued at £585k [£543k]. Both the average asset value and borrowing per pub has increased over the past year. These indicate that the borrowing are just about equal to the property value. But is that correct? The question must depend on their valuation of properties. Have they overstated the value of the properties?
3. The statement indicates that Punch have increased their own average gross earnings per pub to £60.8k,[2012-£60.1k] with rent staying at an average of £27k per pub per annum, virtually the same as 2012.
4. It is interesting to note that they appear to generate rent for the 2874 core pubs of £34k while the 1222 non-core generate £17k per annum.
5. The £60k average per pub they earn includes the very significant additional wholesale profit of about £14k per pub so the real rent, consisting of wet and lease, is probably £47k per annum. That wholesale profit of £14k per pub is the additional profit generated as a wholesaler and has no relevance to the value of the freehold properties.
6. National statistics indicate that barrelage in the on trade has fallen and that manufacturing prices have increased. The fact that Punch virtually maintained their liquor gross profit margin at 41.8% [last year 42.2%] suggests that they have balanced their cost with the prices charged to tenants.
7. Punch in their rent reviews generally make the assumption that the tenant would earn the same as them, £27k par annum. That assumption would appear to be erroneous considering the independent surveys carried out suggest that at least 67% of pub tenants actually earn only about 50% of that figure, in other words about £15k per annum.
8. With the knowledge of the rental income, wet and lease, averaging £47k and the real income for the average tenant being only £15k it is clear that if those 4096 pubs had been free of tie and owned by the current tenant their average profit would be just £62k per annum.
9. The free of tie profit should be the basis of a pub valuation, mainly because it dictates how much could be borrowed and also the deposit that would be required to secure the borrowing. This is a very pertinent since it goes towards examining the values that Punch have applied in their Balance Sheet.
10. Any tenant submitting to a reputable lender a profit history of £62k per annum would be extremely fortunate if they could secure borrowings of around £225k, and that would be with a proviso that they had personal funds of about £100k for a deposit. So an annual profit of £62k suggests that there would be an average supportable value of £325k for each of the 4,096 pubs. Naturally these are averages, some will be higher and some lower, however when considering the substantial volume and spread of assets the average tends to take care of such fluctuations. So across that total estate, the total value based on £325k per pub would be only £1,332 million.
11. So here is the problem. According to the Balance Sheet Punch state the average value per pub, across their estate of 4,096 pubs, and excluding other incidentals, is £585k resulting in their reported total value of £2,397 million. There would appear to be a substantial difference between the supportable asset value of £325k and the Punch figure of £585k; in fact it is almost double! The overall difference for the total estate could be an astounding £1,065 million.
12. Bearing in mind that the shareholders funds in total are reported as being £296 million suggests that there could ultimately be a Billion pound shortfall problem.
13. Naturally some Valuers will be jumping up and down claiming that they could secure offers for properties based on multiples of six, seven or eight times the pub profit. That would mean that they would be claiming that a maximum average value of nearly £500k could be achieved. Not very plausible! Even if true there would still be a very substantial shortfall substantially greater than the current shareholder funds. Possibly there would be a few small corporate buyers that may be able to justify multiples up to eight times profit but that would not apply to the vast majority of pubs at the bottom end of the scale. It has to be added that conning buyers into paying more than the profit can service could be tantamount to deception or even fraud.
14. The Government have before them a proposed code to ensure that pubcos in their assessment of rentals apply, under Statute, the prime principle that “the tied tenant would not be worse off financially than if they were free of tie” That would impact significantly on the profitability of Punch. On the basis of the limited information available the average income per pub for Punch could fall by £17k per pub, about £70 million a year which is more than the current annual pre tax profit.
The Punch Financial Statements are to be presented to the Annual General Meeting to be held on the 27th November 2013, and it needs to be noted that about two thirds of all the shares currently issued are held by institutions. In conclusion the examination in closer detail does suggest that the future looks very bleak, not only for the bond holders/lenders who have overvalued assets as their security but shareholders as well.
Arthur Brian Jacobs
Bristol BS10 7RH