Lossmaking Belstaff's recovery is ongoing battle, owner confirms commitment
Belstaff’s latest set of accounts showed a loss of £48 million and a widening debt load with its auditor warning it’s heavily dependent on the goodwill of its owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe for its survival.
The auditor, KPMG, also said that the upscale motorcycle and fashion clothing brand — which the billionaire owns through his company Ineos — requires a cash injection. That said, it wasn’t all bad news as that post-tax £48 million loss was narrower than the £61.86 million of a year earlier.
And despite the negative figures, the fact is, the report covers the 2018 calendar year. Another complete business year has passed since then, and it’s clear that Ineos has continued to support the firm. In 2019, it may have closed its Japanese stores, but it had plenty of positive activity that would have required significant investment from its owner. Belstaff hired a new CMO, opened flagships in Glasgow, London’s Spitalfieds and — crucially — on Regent Street, and also linked up with new brand ambassador Sir Ben Ainslie.
Commenting on its result, a spokesman told The Telegraph that Ineos is committed to Belstaff and that the figures it just filed relate to the period shortly after the company was acquired. He said that “we have seen significant performance improvements” as a result of its turnaround strategy since then and that the label’s online business grew 34% in 2018 and continued to expand in 2019.
Looking more closely at the details of the results statement, for 2018, the 110 year-old company saw its sales dipping ever-so-slightly to £30.48 million (from £30.99 million in 2017) following the closure of its Westfield London store.
The gross margin percentage improved from -18.5% in 2018 to -8%, but despite the climb, that was still a weak figure. The gross loss narrowed to £2.434 million from £5.7 million and the operating loss was £42.5 million, down from £57.8 million.
But the company’s debts also grew to £147 million from £99.28 million, of which £125.9 million was owed to Ineos via inter-company loans. And Belstaff was dependent on Ineos delaying payment of the loan and providing a cash injection.
Ineos’s commitment to the company may have been publicly stated but KPMG added in the report that "given such financial support is not contractually committed, there remains a risk that the company may not be able to access further funds at the time required. These events and conditions ... constitute a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt on the company's ability to continue as a going concern."
Ineos acquired Belstaff in 2017 as part of the process that saw previous owner JAB Holding shedding its fashion ops (which also included Jimmy Choo and Bally that were sold separately). It was a surprise buy at the time for a businessman who specialised in oil and gas investments.
Its turnaround has been ongoing since then and is clearly not a fait accompli just yet. But, as mentioned, 2019 was a particularly busy year and management seems satisfied with the progress made so far.
In the latest set of accounts, Belstaff’s management team said that now, their “objective is to grow both revenue and profitability, including the reduction of operating costs”. And they added that the retail network “continues to be refined” as the search for “new opportunities in brand-appropriate locations that are appropriately-sized and at a realistic rental level” continues.
The company also said that the wholesale customer portfolio is "constantly monitored to maximise sales whilst ensuring the delivery of a consistent image of the brand”, to support sales in new markets and to expand the label’s presence across the world.
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