The Investment Column: Luminar finds a winning theme

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The Independent Online
The best you can say about the flotation in May of themed bars to discos group Luminar is that it was priced to go. Launched at 200p, the shares were trading at 300p within days. Yesterday after an impressive maiden interim announcement they closed 1p lower at 351.5p.

After a 20 per cent rise in turnover to pounds 12m in the six months to August, profits jumped 30 per cent to pounds 1.6m, earnings per share, diluted by the issue of new shares at flotation, rose 10 per cent to 7.5p and there was a maiden interim payout of 2.33p.

With its roots in provincial discotheques, Luminar jumped on the themed bar bandwagon in 1990, setting up Chicago Rock, which the company describes as the sort of bars you would find if you got lost in Chicago and ended up in the blue-collar working class areas off the tourist track.

Luminar reckons it stands out from the dozens of other themed bars that have sprung up in the 1990s because it is the only place to offer eating, drinking and dancing under one roof. It also plays only music at least 10 years old in a commendable recognition of the fact that the trendy youth at the sharp end of fashion is not necessarily where the disposable income lies.

Future expansion is likely to be focused on the Chicago Rock bars, with new discos being added as and when promising sites become available. Seven new openings are planned this year to add to the portfolio of 17 Cafes and 16 discos.

On the basis of forecast profits of pounds 3.6m this year and pounds 4.6m in the 12 months to February 1998, Luminar's shares stand on a prospective price/earnings ratio of 22 falling to 18. That puts it on a par with rivals such as Yates Brothers, City Centre Restaurants and Regent Inns. After their strong run, and despite the ever present bid froth in this sector, they are now about fairly priced.