M&B said it had incurred paper losses of £221m on the hedging positions it had taken out in connection with the proposed joint venture, which was pulled earlier this year when the credit crunch hit and bank finance dried up. This was more than enough to wipe out its pre-tax profits of £207m in the year to September, leaving the pub group in the red for the year. It’s bit of a come-down from last year’s £220m profit.
Tchenguiz, who owns nearly 20% of M&B, must be sick to death of the credit crunch already. He’s already suffered a huge paper loss on his investment in Sainsbury recently, when the change in financing conditions put paid to the Qatari takeover bid. It’s not clear how much the property tycoon has lost from all this, but it’s unlikely to be pocket change. And it’s getting worse – M&B said yesterday that the losses had widened to about £260m since the end of the trading period.
The one bit of good news is that M&B still has a potentially lucrative property portfolio to play with – the value of which has apparently risen to £5bn, up £1.1bn. The planned tie-up with Tchenguiz’s investment vehicle involved spinning off a big chunk of this portfolio into a joint venture – now M&B says it is giving ‘serious consideration’ to turning itself into a real estate investment trust, as a way of unlocking this value. In the circumstances, it seems safe to assume that Tchenguiz is the one pushing this – particularly since this appears to have been his favoured option from the start.
So there is some light at the end of the tunnel. And at least we can all do our bit to help. This weekend, get down to your local All Bar One and order an over-priced Belgian lager, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be easing the burden of a very depressed property tycoon. Otherwise his younger brother Vincent may have to buy the turkey this Christmas...