Fizz falls flat for nightclub group

FIRST LEISURE, the nightclub and bowling alley group run by Michael Grade, has felt the chill wind of declining consumer spending with even regular shows by the Chippendales male striptease troupe failing to woo the punters.

The company, which announced last week that it is discussing a number of "strategic alternatives" with several parties, yesterday reported flat full-year profits and a poor current trading update.

The news forced the shares 22.5p lower to 192.5p.

The group also disappointed the market by refusing to reveal any further information about possible takeover or joint venture talks. A bid from Rank has been tipped in some quarters, with others suggesting a possible fitness club joint venture with a rival group, such as Vardon. "We are not adding anything to our statement of last week," Mr Grade said.

In the first 10 weeks of its financial year, First Leisure's nightclubs and bars division is trading 7 per cent below the same period last year. Family entertainment, which includes bowling alleys, fell by 2 per cent. However, heath and fitness continues to perform well, with sales up 21 per cent last year on a comparable basis.

Mr Grade said: "We've been through much worse than this us the recession of the early Nineties. Indeed, I still don't think we're in recession yet."

He said the average spend in First Leisure's nightclubs was up by 3 per cent over the year but in-current trading admissions were down by 7-8 per cent. First Leisure has been offering "selective discounts" and hiring the Chippendales to boost attendances. Mr Grade said it uses the strip shows to build its database of customers.

The group has appointed a new director to take control of the division. More club refurbishments are planned, whilethe balance of the portfolio will be shifted more towards town-centre sites. "In our experience, the dancing habit has always bounced back from recession," Mr Grade said.

First Leisure's profits in the year to October were pounds 33.3m, excluding exceptional items. This compares with pounds 34.5m in the previous year. The bingo and resorts divisions were sold last year for pounds 38m and pounds 71m respectively. Mr Grade declined to say how the proceeds will be used, though analysts say there may be acquisitions in the health and fitness area.

COMPANY RESULTS

Name Turnover (pounds ) Pre-tax (pounds ) EPS Dividend Pay day X-div

Alldays (F) 0.698m (0.638m) 10.29m (21.48m) 18.2p (33.9p) 12.0p (18.8p) 12.03.99 22.02.99

Adscene Group (I) 26.16m(26.87m) -3.0m(2.87m) -19.47p(6.45p) 3.5p(3.5p) 07.04.99 08.03.99

Bickerton Group (I) 17.17m(12.35m) 0.102m(0.044m) 0.392p(0.103p) -(-) - -

Colefax & Fowler Group (I) 31.22m(24.14m) 1.7m(1.41m) 4.23p(3.91p) 1.17p(1.1p) 08.04.99 08.03.99

Ensor Holdings (I) 8.15m(8.36m) 0.409m(0.458m) 1.2p(1.2p) 0.25p(0.25p) 23.02.99 01.02.99

First Leisure Corporation (F) 228.6m(209.2m) 24.3m(6.1m) 10.62p(-2.52p) - (-) tba tba

Gooch & Housego (F) 7.15m(6.72m) 1.81m(1.58m) 7.5p(7.4p) 1.7p(-) 26.02.99 01.02.99

Industrial Control Services (I) 41.235m(36.985m) -3.901m(-27.423m) -2.30p(- 49.79p) -(-) - -

Inter Link Foos (I) 4.43m(4.02m) 0.510m(0.202m) 10.5p(5.0p) -(-) - -

Shani Group (F) 29.04m(29.57m) 1.25m(1.36m) 5.8p(6.4p) 5.37p(5.37p) 07.04.99 01.02.99

(F) - Final (I) - Interim (Q) - Quarterly (SP) - Split Period (N) - Nine Months

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