Belfast Telegraph

Turnover at Belfast's Merchant Hotel firm rises by 9%

Investment: Bill Wolsey
Investment: Bill Wolsey
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Turnover at the holding company behind Belfast's Merchant and Bullitt hotels, as well as a range of pubs, surged by 9% to £25.8m over the year to June 2018, accounts show.

Beannchor No 1, which is led by Bill Wolsey and members of his family, said the rise in sales came despite strong competition in the sector.

And the firm has since embarked on a major investment programme, upgrading many of its bars and announcing the opening of a new hotel in Lisburn.

Group finance director James Sinton told the Belfast Telegraph: "We are pleased with the performance the group has recorded for our 2018 financial year.

"Over the last six months, we have encountered a more challenging and competitive environment as a result of the large increase in hotel supply in the last year.

"Our focus remains on operating quality premises with high service standards.

"This is evidenced by our recent and ongoing refurbishment projects across our group."

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Accounts recently filed at Companies House showed the company had expanded during the financial year following the opening of the Bullitt Hotel in Belfast in October 2017, as well as the acquisition of other licensed establishments.

It is understood that the acquisitions related to previously tenanted pubs which had been absorbed into the Beannchor hospitality group.

Pre-tax profits were down from £3.2m to £2m. Staff numbers were steady at 576. However, the accounts for Beannchor No 1 do not cover the Little Wing chain of pizzerias which is also owned by the Wolsey family.

Accounts relating to the luxury Merchant Hotel in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast show steady turnover at £12.5m for the year, while pre-tax profits reached £20,373, turning around a loss of £748,427 the year before.

The accounts for Beannchor No 1 also show that the group has refinanced all its debt from ELQ Investors II Ltd with First Trust Bank and Santander.

In a strategic report with the holding company's results, the directors described the year's performance as satisfactory but said there were risks ahead, including "competition in the local marketplace from other licensed premises and hotels, and employee retention".

The directors added that they expected a competitive period of trading in the year ahead and would "continue to seek every opportunity to increase turnover and operating profits where possible."

While the Bullitt Hotel is treated as part of Beannchor No 1 Ltd, in the accounts to June 2018 a note adds that the assets and trade associated with Bullitt have now been separated.

A new ultimate group company has been established, known as Beannchor Group Ltd.

And since the period covered in the accounts, the business has embarked on major investment, spending a total of £850,000 on some of its key bars, including The National and The Cloth Ear, both in Belfast.

It also announced the opening of new hotel, The Haslem, in Lisburn later this year.

Belfast Telegraph