Center Parcs on track after flotation

British holiday village operator Center Parcs today unveiled annual profits of £24.4m (€36.6m) as it said efforts to find a fifth site were going well.

British holiday village operator Center Parcs today unveiled annual profits of £24.4m (€36.6m) as it said efforts to find a fifth site were going well.

The group, which made its stock market debut in December, said the pre-exceptional figure for the 53 weeks to April 22 was in line with hopes after maintaining its record for achieving occupancy rates above the 90% mark. It did not give a profit figure for the previous year.

Center Parcs UK has four sites – Longleat Forest near Bath, Oasis Whinfell Forest in the Lake District, Sherwood Forest near Nottingham and Elveden Forest, Suffolk – but recently revealed its intention to open a fifth.

It is also considering opportunities to build on the popularity of its on-site Aqua Sana health and beauty spas, while the company plans to step up to the London Stock Exchange in a bid to raise its profile among investors.

Chief executive Martin Dalby said the outlook was bright, with 59% of its annual target for bookings already confirmed for this financial year.

He added: “The leisure market in the UK continues to grow and Center Parcs’ unique model and strong brand means it is ideally positioned to take advantage of the increasing strength in the domestic leisure market.”

As Center Parcs only gained its listing on the junior AIM market in December, today’s full-year figures are based on estimates by the board.

In the 19 weeks since flotation, the company achieved underlying profits of £100,000 (€150,000) and turnover of £72.3m (€108.6m), although this was achieved during its weakest trading period.

For the full year, Center Parcs reported turnover of £227.7m (€342.2m) and re-opened Elveden Forest after spending £41m (€61.6m) to rebuild the site after a fire in April 2002. High occupancy rates have been quickly re-established at the park, the company added.

Further developments at Oasis Whinfell Forest and Longleat Forest also helped increase the accommodation stock by 4% to 3,205 at April 22. An additional 65 villas have been opened since then.

Today’s 19 week figures include £16.6m (€24.9m) of exceptional items, mainly relating to charges incurred from the issue of new shares to “key personnel”. At the bottom-line, losses were £16.5m (€24.8m).

Center Parcs also said it planned to declare a dividend at its next interim results, due to be released in December. Shares are currently below their opening price of 100p, although the stock did rise a penny to 90.5p in early trading today.

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