Stellar-growth Hastings Hotels sees profits soar despite £53m 'Grand' move

Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE north's longest-established family-run hotel chain Hastings Group has enjoyed a stellar last trading year as profits and turnover both soared.

And even though it is ploughing around £53 million into a new hotel in Belfast at the old Windsor House, the group is still sitting on assets of close to £40 million, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

Operators of six hotels right now, including the luxury Culloden and the Slieve Donard in Newcastle, Hastings saw its pre-tax profits lift more than 20 per cent to £4,918,796 in the year to October.

That compared to just over £4 million in 2015, and it came on a turnover of £36.7m (against £35.3m previously).

The group (it also owns the Europa, Everglades, Stormont and Ballygally Castle hotels) has net assets of £39.9m at year-end, up from £35m a year earlier.

Hastings is currently in currently in the final throes of construction of the 304-bedroom Grand Central Hotel in Belfast, due to open next June.

Every penny of the investment (it was originally envisaged to cost £30 million) is coming from the Hastings Group's own cash reserves, with no government support whatsoever.

At least 150 permanent jobs will be created at the Grand Central (a nod to a hotel of similar name built on Royal Avenue in the Victorian era, but which was forced to shut its doors in 1970 as civil unrest kicked in).

And its completion will help put the city in prime position to host world sporting fixtures and international conferences.

The company's accounts show that an average 1,138 staff were employed in the group (roughly half-and-half full-time and part-time) over the course of the year (down from 1,185), though its wages bill increased still lifted to £12.2m from £11.8m.

In its strategic report accompanying the accounts, the company said: "The group will continue to seek every opportunity to increase profitable turnover."

It added: "The external commercial environment is expected to remain competitive in 2017."

The report added: "The key business risks affecting the group are considered to relate to competition from other licensed premises and hotel groups, and employee retention.

"These risks are addressed by the board carrying out regular strategic reviews, including assessments of competitor activity and the board's active review of competitor prices."

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