Seasonal parties profit Tiger Tiger bar chain

The nightclub operator Urbium, owner of the Tiger Tiger chain, yesterday joined the list of leisure companies to have traded well over the festive period, particularly in London.

Urbium shrugged off ongoing tough conditions in the leisure sector to report a 4 per cent jump in sales, on a like-for-like basis, during the five-week period to 31 December.

That, it said, meant trading for the full-year was likely to meet current market forecasts. Shares in the company closed up 6.5 per cent, or 29p, at 472.5p.

Robert Cohen, managing director, said: "We are delighted with this result, which has been achieved in continuing tough market conditions."

Urbium's best-performing clubs in the five-week period were in London with its original Tiger Tiger, situated in London's Haymarket, having achieved record sales.

"December's performances reflect buoyant demand throughout the month and a strong performance on New Year's Eve," said Mr Cohen, adding that the company's Tiger Tiger brand had produced sales "in line" with last year's levels. It said that its format of combining bar, restaurant and nightclub facilities at its venues had helped it outperform by winning higher-spending customers.

Most of Urbium's sites are in London's West End although it also owns the Digress bar in the City where it plans to open another site - Abacus - next month. The chairman John Conlan said: "The strong recovery in the West End in the second half of 2003 illustrates the enduring potential of this huge market."

As for Tiger Tiger, which operates in seven locations, Urbium is planning to set up smaller venues in secondary markets. The first of these opens in Aberdeen in June.

The problem location remains Birmingham where the company has been under pressure from rivals. Mr Conlan said yesterday that there was likely to be a one-off asset impairment charge in the 2003 figures. He said, however, that the charge would be partially offset by a favourable settlement of past tax liabilities.

Nevertheless, city analysts were impressed with Urbium's trading statement. They had been expecting a rise in sales of about 3.5 per cent for the Christmas period.

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