No Pain, No Gain: The miracle worker looks ready to do it again
Saturday 15 January 2005
Revitalising an ailing company is an arduous task. Ask Nicholas Oppenheim.
Revitalising an ailing company is an arduous task. Ask Nicholas Oppenheim. After a tough battle, he resurrected Northern Leisure, eventually enriching himself and his shareholders when he sold to a rival nightclub chain. Perhaps not surprisingly, he is attempting to repeat the trick.
I don't know how long Mr Oppenheim thought his second rejuvenation process would take. I suspect it has already proved rather more onerous and taken much longer than he originally budgeted. But there now seems to be a reasonable chance that his endeavours are starting to pay off and his vehicle, Georgica, could be emerging as an attractive investment.
He moved in more than four years ago, descending, with powerful City backing, on what seemed to be one of the stock market's perennial strugglers, Allied Leisure. The shares illustrate just what a long, hard slog it has been. After topping 120p they subsequently relapsed to near 35p. They are now 87p, not far from their best level for two years. There is little doubt the group was in something of a mess when Mr Oppenheim arrived. Backed by an array of City institutions, he won control after a spirited skirmish. Allied had already enjoyed a colourful career and, swollen by a round of acquisitions, embraced a disarray of leisure activities including tenpin bowling, snooker, nightclubs, pubs and Burger King. It needed tidying up. But that has proved no easy task.
Peripheral interests have been unloaded. Burger King was sold for £4.75m. In some other instances, long talks with landlords about easing lease terms failed to produced the desired result and Georgica took the extreme step of calling in administrators for some of its operations. It is now concentrating on bowling centres and snooker clubs. In the first years of the new reign, heavy losses were suffered.
But the worst should now be over and although last year's figures will not be scintillating, they should, providing trade over the Christmas period was up to scratch, underline that the recovery is on track.
Borrowings, however, are still high. The summertime figure was about £100m. And many of the group's operations, particularly bowling alleys, have still to enjoy complete refurbishment. It is on the snooker side that the Oppenheim touch has been most evident. Many of the 150 outlets have been revitalised and by the end of this year, it is hoped the entire estate will be in a satisfactory condition and trading under one name, Rileys
In 2003 cue sports turnover was up 4.1 per cent with a 7.6 per cent improvement achieved in the first six months of last year. There is nothing to suggest that progress did not continue in the second half-year. Mr Oppenheim, who has a number of Northern Leisure hands on the Georgica board, has not been slow to tap the stock market. A placing at 75p a share produced £25m. An earlier cash call at 96.5p a share realised £18m.
Shortly after offering shareholders shares at 96.5p, the group attempted to buy out small shareholders with a bid of 87p a share. I criticised the company at the time. It was hardly the sort of manoeuvre that endears the City to small shareholders. I felt then - and still feel - that the cash call should have followed the buy-in.
But there is little point dwelling on past misdemeanours. For investors who are prepared to take a long-term view, the shares, I believe, are worthy of interest. As share tipster Bill Johnston on the watshot.com website says, a purchase and lockaway could reap excellent rewards.
Georgica looks an ideal candidate for the No Pain, No Gain portfolio and I have purchased shares at 87p. It replaces Burtonwood, the pub chain being taken over by the Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries.
I regarded Burtonwood as a long-term investment. The portfolio acquired the shares at 185.5p in August, 2000. Following the Wolves bid, it sold at 570p. With the founding families enjoying a strong influence, I did not see Burtonwood as a takeover candidate. So the Wolves hunger was a welcome surprise.
Although I regard Georgica as a recovery play, there is a strong possibility of takeover action. Indeed, I would not be at all surprised if Mr Oppenheim cashed in his chips once it is hitting the high spots. After all, he did just that at Northern, which was teetering on the brink of disaster when he arrived. Here, too, he had to endure some early difficulties and there were doubts whether he would succeed. But Northern became a major force in the nightclub business, worth more than £400m when he sold out.
Tax change lays foundation for self-build boom in UK
Dirty tricks in a divorce can cause some nasty surprises
Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal
Pension firms must ask consumers more questions, says City Watchdog
Number of serially under-performing investment funds has increased by a fifth, survey reveals
- 3 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Isis publicly behead man in Syrian town square for 'insulting Allah' as he screams for help
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
iJobs Money & Business
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...
Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...
Day In a Page
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village