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Executives check in to take back hotel chain

MACDONALD Hotels is back under the full control of its ­executives after Lloyds Banking Group agreed to convert its shares into loan notes as part of a £299 million re-financing.

david GUILE: Chief executive expects a 5% sales lift and a 7% profits rise.
david GUILE: Chief executive expects a 5% sales lift and a 7% profits rise.

The hotel group's founder Donald Macdonald and his family trust are the majority shareholders after the bank decided to relinquish its effective 50% stake.

The new five-year banking facility is said to be at a slightly higher rate of interest but has less severe penalties.

Macdonald Hotels finance director Gordon Fraser believes the company has secured a good deal.

He said: "The banking facilities have taken quite some time as there have been a lot of points to negotiate and the rate was one of them.

"The core facilities are 1% more expensive but are still very competitive. We are very pleased with the deal.

"It has taken a while but we are glad to have the support of the bank for another five years at what is an exciting time for the group."

Mr Fraser confirmed the change of ownership structure formed part of the negotiations.

He said: "As part of the ­refinancing we wanted the shares back and asked for them back. The shares that are in existence are now 100% owned by the executives in the company. We negotiated with the bank to convert their shares into loan notes and that is what the bank have done."

The group also revealed its ­financial results for the 12 months to March 28, 2103 which showed group turnover of £138.6m, down from £139.5m, and a 7% rise in operating profits from £13.8m to £14.9m.

However interest payments of more than £16m, including an ­exceptional £4.2m charge, and £5.2m of asset write downs relating to hotels in the north west of England saw pre-tax losses come in at almost £6.4m.

That compared to a £1.9m pre-tax profit in 2012.

During the year the company invested £8.7m in refurbishing hotels in Oxford and St Andrews as well as adding new spa treatment rooms in Shropshire and public spaces in Preston.

David Guile, chief executive, said there had been a 4% increase in occupancy in the financial year to March 2014 and he expected a 5% rise in sales and a 7% hike in profits.

He said the company had continued to invest in its estate spending more than £13m across various sites. That included overhauling rooms and the ground floor of its Holyrood hotel in Edinburgh and spending £1.6m, as part of a £5m plan, on adding facilities and refurbishing bedrooms at its Aviemore resort.

It has plans to further extend the Rusacks Hotel in St Andrews with additional bedrooms and rooftop restaurant and bar overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course.

A £2m spend on spa facilities at Crutherland House in East Kilbride is also in the pipeline.

Mr Guile said bookings for 2014 in Scotland were tracking ahead of expectations.

He said: "The outlook is relatively positive with the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and events surrounding Homecoming.

"We are pacing ahead with our bookings and they are getting stronger as we get closer to those events.

"We are really building on the strength of Scotland from the year just finished.

"We had 6% sales growth in our properties in Scotland so we are looking to build on a positive trend."

Mr Guile said the focus was on improving assets in its existing estate but the company would consider taking on further management contracts.

Mr Fraser said Macdonald Hotels was not precluded from making acquisitions but any money spent on that would likely lead to a cut in capital spending on its estate.

A sum of £70m has been earmarked for capital spending over the next five years.

Macdonald Hotels also confirmed it has received planning permission for 1,400 houses on a 200 acre brownfield site in Hampshire.

But it is awaiting the outcome of a judicial review before development can start.

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