Belfast Telegraph

Merchant turns round fortunes with profits of £1.27m

By John Mulgrew

Luxury Belfast five-star hotel The Merchant has posted a surge in profits to £1.27m, after suffering a loss a year earlier.

Turnover also increased to £11.7m in the period to June 30, 2015, rising slightly from £11.3m a year earlier, according to the latest accounts for Merchant Hotel Ltd.

But it was its profits where the business experienced its biggest growth.

It turned around a loss of more than £3m - due to write-downs - in the period to June 2014, instead posting pre-tax profits of £1.27m for the year to June 2015.

The top-end luxury hotel is the jewel in the crown of the Beannchor group, run by businessman Bill Wolsey, which also owns a range of other bars and hotels.

They include spots such as The National and The Dirty Onion, both located in Belfast city centre.

James Sinton, group finance director, said the company was "very satisfied with the robust financial performance" of The Merchant.

"Since then we have restructured and refinanced all banking facilities to place the company on an even more stable footing going forward."

Loans relating to some of Beannchor's assets, including The Merchant, were sold by Ulster Bank to Goldman Sachs, two years ago.

"We expect the year ahead to be challenging, with increased competition in Belfast, however, our focus will remain on providing the highest standard of product and service level and we feel this will continue to place us as the market leader here," Mr Sinton said.

"Our wider group continues to have the confidence to expand in Belfast and this is reflected in Bullitt, our newest hotel concept, which will open its doors in Belfast city centre later this year."

Job numbers at The Merchant are also on the up.

Staff numbers during the year to June 2015 were 336, up from 328 a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the latest accounts for one of Beannchor's subsidiaries, which runs a range of pubs, has shrunk its losses.

Beannchor Properties LLP saw its losses reduce to £455,000 for the year to June 30, 2015.

That was down from £870,000 a year earlier.

It said the results were impacted by "impairment charges to the profit and loss account" of £1.25m.

The overall Beannchor group is also expanding elsewhere in the city.

And work has begun on its latest Belfast hotel, after it was given the green light last year.

The new £4m 58-bedroom Bullitt hotel will create 100 new jobs when it opens its doors.

The hotel will be on the corner of Victoria Street and Ann Street, at the old Lagan House building.

Belfast Telegraph