Hastings Hotels swings back into profit - but only just

Hastings sold its award-winning Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle for £40m at the end of its last trading year
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE marque Hastings Hotel Group has swung back into the black - but only just.

After the worst trading period in its history in the 12 months to October 2020, when the Covid pandemic decimated its business, the group's latest set of accounts reveal a marked improvement.

But the figures up to last October still lay bare many issues for the group, notably around staff, of which it has lost nearly 230, including 180 full-timers.

Accounts just submitted to Companies House show that sales at the group - whose properties include the Grand Central and Europa in Belfast and the Culloden in Holywood - lifted by 11 per cent from £25.1 million to just shy of £28 million.

But to put this into context, in the pre-Covid year its turnover was almost £50 million.

Significantly however, it swung from a pre-tax loss of £16.6m in 2020 to an albeit minuscule profit of £679,674 last year. On a bottom line basis though, Hastings posted a loss of £1,234,221.

“Following a turbulent number of years for all businesses, particularly those in the tourism industry, we are pleased to report we are on track in our post-Covid recovery plan,” Hastings Hotels finance director Peter Gibson told the Irish News.

“We have continued to invest in our people and our properties and recently celebrated the Grand Central Hotel being awarded a five-star rating by the AA.

“We've worked hard to attract the domestic and Republic of Ireland markets, and with international visitors now starting to return and our forward bookings for the summer looking very positive, we are committed to building on this in the months ahead.”

The accounts show that fixed assets at the group dropped from £91.9m to £76.7m.

But when current liabilities are stripped out - which includes £17m owed in bank loans and another £1.8m in pension liability - its net assets at year-end were £44.1m against £33.4m the year before.

Just as Hastings closed its books in October, it sold its award-winning Slieve Donard Hotel and spa resort in Newcastle to property investment group AJ Capital Partners in Nashville for £40 million.

The buyer already owns three prestige hotels near golf courses in Scotland – the Marine Troon, Rusacks St Andrews and Marine North Berwick - and the Slieve Donard, adjacent to Royal County Down Golf Club, is now operated by AJ Capital Partners under its Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts brand.

Proceeds of that sale won't figure until Hastings' next set of annual results are filed.

Elsewhere, Hastings' latest accounts also show that staff numbers over the year fell from 1,161 to 934, with the bulk of those losses (180) being full-time employees, which has created something of a labour crisis for the group.

That led to its overall wages bill dropping from £14.3m to £11.6m, even though the directors' remuneration rose from £1.1m to £1.3m, with the highest paid director receiving £274,005 (up from £220,718 in 2020).

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