Licensing trust reports loss

A cocktail of rising depreciation, falling sales and bad debts all contributed to a $140,542 post-tax operating loss for the Clutha Licensing Trust in the past year.

Trust president Malcolm McElrea said when releasing the figures yesterday, the trust had experienced "a very difficult trading period" during which overall sales dropped by just over $400,000.

Depreciation also contributed to the loss.

A total of $551,623 was wiped off the trust accounts for the year ending March 31, 2009.

This depreciation figure was higher because of the trust's capital improvement programme, adopted in recent years.

The trust has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars improving its properties.

In the last year, it invested more money into its Rosebank Lodge facility, including the well-utilised Rosie's Bar and Bistro.

But Mr McElrea hinted this investment may already be paying off.

"If results to date are guidance, we expect an additional $500,000 in sales from this new bar alone during the 2009-10 period which is extremely pleasing during what others are experiencing as a declining on-premise environment."

But he had been disappointed with the trust's failure to find an effective operator for its Milton operation - the White Horse Inn - and it lost "considerable ground".

"Fortunately, we have since located a very positive, progressive management team, who are in the process of rebuilding this business to the desired level of return," he said.

The level of bad debts also rose during the last year, mainly due to "one large customer" who failed to meet his commitments to the trust during hard financial times.

This was a local hotel that the trust supplied over the last year; trust officials declined to name the operator.

Trust general manager Dave Kenny said, when contacted, it had been a difficult trading environment and this, coupled with significant investments in upgrading facilities, meant an operating loss was always on the cards.

But he was confident these investments would encourage more patronage and sales which, in time, would bolster its finances.

The Clutha Liquorland operation continues to "hold firm" in a slower economic marketplace with its sales only marginally below the 2008 figure.

Figures from its financial statement show the trust reported overall sales of $8.83 million in the last financial year, compared with $9.25 million the year before.

The 2008-09 result compares with a $21,848 operating loss in the the 2007-08 year.

Mr Kenny said the 2009 result was the biggest loss since the mid to late 1990s when it made a significant loss operating its former Lone Star Cafe venture in Dunedin - its first, ultimately unsuccessful, attempt at owning and operating a business outside its traditional trading boundaries.

Meanwhile, the trust awarded grants totalling $704,569.34 to South Otago groups during the last year and another $9204 in sponsorships.


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