Magners maker C&C makes cash call after swinging to loss in pandemic

Magners and Bulmers maker C&C has unveiled plans to tap shareholders for cash as it swung to a hefty annual loss amid the pandemic.

The group sunk to a 121.3 million euro (£104.8 million) pre-tax loss for the year to February 28 from profits of 11.6 million euros (£10 million) the previous year.

It said losses came as a “direct result” of the impact of Covid-19 as pubs and restaurants were shut for large parts of the past year, decimating on-trade demand for its drinks.

C&C announced plans to raise around £151 million through a rights issue to help debts and boost its balance sheet in the face of “trading uncertainty”.

David Forde, chief executive of C&C Group, said the rights issue will “strengthen the balance sheet and ensure C&C is in a stronger position to achieve sustained growth and pursue its strategy as the hospitality sector emerges from the pandemic”.

The group’s debt pile swelled to 362.3 million euros (£313 million) from 233.6 million euros (£201.8 million) over the year as it faced soaring costs from the pandemic.

Revenues plunged 56.1% to 736.9 million euros (£636.6 million), with around 80% of its sales before the pandemic reliant on the hard-hit hospitality sector.

The group also has a minority investment in Admiral Taverns – a 1,000-strong pub chain across the UK, which suffered amid lockdowns and restrictions.

It booked a 8.9 million euro (£7.7 million) write down on the value of its investment in Admiral pubs, while it also took a further 8.8 million euros (£7.6 million) for further costs at the chain.

But C&C said trading was starting to bounce back after the reopening of hospitality.

Mr Forde said the group is looking to the year ahead “with optimism”, despite ongoing uncertainty facing the hospitality sector.

He said he wants to grow the group’s share of the cider market and boost its presence in the premium beer sector, which he sees as a “significant market opportunity”.