Belgium International Trip

This year we are going back to Belgium, based in Brussels.

Friday 16 October at 14:30 – Cantillon, in the city centre, walking distance from Midi Station. The visit will include “a good tasting” and also a visit to the newly acquired old brewery building just round the corner which is being used for the storing of the 1, 2 and 3 year old lambic beer in large barrels.

Saturday 17 October at 11:00 – Brasserie de la Senne. This brewery has been operational since 2010 and is owned and run by two very keen young brewers. They produce some fantastic beers. The brewery is in Molembeek, just a few tram stops from Midi station on the 82 tram.

The cost of these two visits is £13. Please contact Jannette to add your name onto the list and to whom you should send your cheque for £13 made payable to CAMRA Investment Club.

In addition to the 2 brewery visits there will be the usual trip by local bus to Eizeringen to sample local gueuze and other beers at In de Verzekering tegen de grote Dorst – “ The Insurance Against the Big Thirst” which is only open on Sundays from 10:30 for 3 hours.

On Monday 19 October there is an “add on” visit to The Belgoo Brewery in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, on the outskirts of Brussels, at noon. This is a new brewery passionately run by brewery engineer turned brewer Jo Van Aert. He built the brewery himself !! Neil Kellett has visited this brewery and tasted his fantastic beers. Sint-Pietres-Leeuw is reached by De Lijn 170 bus from Brussels Midi station. If you wish to partake in this visit please add £4 to the £13 for the other visits – so … £17 for all three visits or an add on of £4 of you have already paid the £13.

During the weekend there is a meeting of EBCU members and it is planned to arrange a get together with them during the time we are in Brussels.

As usual it will be up to each person to arrange their own transport and hotels – the most central place for these trips and Eurostar arrivals is The Ibis, Gare du Midi Hotel, but there are, of course, lots of hotels of varying price and comfort in central Brussels. As per usual a central meeting place will be arranged – a pub of course!

Maximum number for this weekend is 45 – so that leaves 44 places after me!

More details on all of the above will be forthcoming to participants nearer to the date.

Neil Kellett – your International Organiser.

Black Sheep Brewery PLC AGM

The Black Sheep Brewery plc held its Annual General Meeting in the Town Hall, Masham on Thursday 24th September 2015. I was present in my new non-executive Director capacity – the Board of Black Sheep invited me to join it in July 2015. Two other Committee members and several other Club members also attended.

The Chairman, Paul Theakston, outlined reasonable progress in the long term plan to restore the company to profitability. Turnover increased to £19.5m although in the year ending 31st March an, albeit smaller, loss (£34k) was declared. He indicated that the Board believed that a profit would probably be declared in the year ending 31st March 2016 but that this could not be guaranteed. There was no immediate plan to return to paying a dividend.

As always there was much discussion about the effect of the progressive beer duty on a company such as Black Sheep. There is no immediate solution. Paul further reported that a market in the company’s shares was being established through Asset Match. Neil Harding (the Club’s previous stockbroker) is a consultant to Asset Match.

The Managing Director, Rob Theakston, outlined more details of the progress made. He mentioned that some of Black Sheep’s competitors – e.g. Bateman’s – had decided to downsize. Paul Theakston is heavily involved with industry initiatives to address the position. Rob commented on the positive effect of the Tour de France Grand Départ in July 2014 and the success of the new brew “Velo”. The Visitor Centre also performed exceptionally well at the time.

In answers to questions, Paul Theakston stated that the Board had actively sought a female non-executive Director during the year but the lady in question was not available. There was some negative comment about the labels on some of the Black Sheep bottled beers on public sale. These comments were noted.

All the resolutions were passed on a show of hands although two of them were not unanimous. It was reported that the official professional valuation of Black Sheep’s share price (accepted by HMRC) was £3-00 but that all transactions were on a matched bargain basis. For example, the recent transactions had been in the range £2.00 – £3.37. Only 0.2% of the issued share capital had changed hands during the year. The Asset Match appointment should improve the accurate establishment of the share valuation.

When this business had been completed, Black Sheep beers were available in the Visitor Centre. All the Directors mingled with the shareholders and answered further questions from all and sundry.

Report by Chris Bruton – CMIC Chair

Greene King PLC AGM

Greene King plc held its Annual General Meeting in the Millennium Grandstand, Newmarket Racecourse on Tuesday 8th September 2015. I represented the Club Committee and there was a number of other Club members present. It is always good to see them.

Tim Bridge, the Chairman, reported on a continued strong performance in the eighteen weeks to 1st September with all business categories showing growth. Sales in the period were up 1.8%. He further reported that the Spirit integration was going very well. £30M of cost synergies had been identified. Contracts had been exchanged on the sixteen pubs which the company was required to sell by the Competition and Markets Authority as part of the deal. Completion was expected in October.

Rooney Anand, the CEO, as usual drew particular attention to the good return on capital employed (ROCE) and increased dividend. He stated that Greene King was maintaining its position at the forefront of the industry. The Spirit pubs were already showing growth.

In answers to questions, the Board accepted that the “living wage” will have an effect. This was being analysed. The conclusions would be communicated to shareholders at the half year stage. Some concern was also expressed about the possible effect of any change in the drink/drive limit in England. Another shareholder commented favourably on the quality of the recent development in Westgate Street in Bury St Edmunds.

A great selection of Greene King beers was available in the Millennium Bar after the meeting together with an excellent buffet lunch. All the Directors mingled with the shareholders present and answered further questions face to face whilst enjoying these beers. Both Tim and Rooney seemed slightly surprised and pleased, of course, by the magnitude of the Club’s holding in their company. I also met with the new Finance Director.

Report by Chris Bruton – CMIC Chair

Fuller, Smith & Turner AGM

Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC held its Annual General Meeting in the Hock Cellar at the Brewery in Chiswick on Thursday 23rd July 2015. Several Club members, two Committee members and several CAMRA West London Branch members attended.

Michael Turner, the Chairman, reported on a strong performance in the sixteen weeks to 19th July with sales up in the managed estate by 5.7% like for like. Beer volumes and profits in the tenanted estate were level. He further noted that the dividend cover was more than three times. He repeated his comments of recent years that Fuller’s was outperforming its closest competitors. He drew attention to the Blue Boat, the Fuller’s new build pub in Chiswick on the Boat Race course which was trading well near where he lived!

Simon Emeny introduced his remarks with a picture of One Over the Ait in Brentford another new build which was trading well (if difficult to find!), near where he lived! He highlighted the strong performance with all three divisions showing growth and highlighted the 10% increase in dividend combined with £57.5M of investment in new developments without a significant increase in debt.

£18M had also been invested in maintaining the existing tied estate. Particular attention was drawn to the Admiralty, the only pub on Trafalgar Square and the success of the Harp under Fuller’s ownership. The opportunities from Rugby World Cup 2015 were noted.

In answers to questions, the Board indicated that it had no plans for a share re-organisation similar to that done in the previous year by Shepherd Neame. Michael Turner indicated that the family control allowed for long term decision making and long term growth. He further indicated that the Board was comfortable with the Pension Fund position: the apparent change was caused by interest rate changes and the consequent actuarial analysis.

A great selection of Fuller’s products was available in the Hock Cellar after the meeting. As usual, the Directors mingled with the shareholders present and answered further questions face to face whilst enjoying these beers. Thereafter many members enjoyed the afternoon in the Mawson Arms.

Report by Chris Bruton – CMIC Chair

2015 Annual General Meeting

Last year’s 2015 AGM was held on 20th June, as in previous years, at The Victoria in Beeston, Nottingham.

Our speaker was Mike Benner the Managing Director of SIBA and former Chief Executive of CAMRA who gave the meeting a resume of his time at CAMRA and how he sees his new role at SIBA. Thanks to Mike for a very entertaining talk.

Three new members were elected to the Committee – John Westlake, Chris Excell and Bob Crumpton … and here they are with Neil Kellett who chaired the meeting in the absence of Chris Bruton.

Members of the 2015 AGM and the buffet being served by Neil Kelso and staff.

2015 Brewery Visits

A visit to Hook Norton took place on 14th May – a report and photos should be uploaded in the next few days.

A trip to Shepherd Neame will take place at 14:00 on Friday 25th September. Jannette is the person to call if you want to put your name on the list.

A visit to Joseph Holt has been planned for Friday 27 November at a cost of £10 (for the tour and a pint), all proceeds to be donated to The Christie. Anyone wanting to visit Holt’s should contact Jannette and then let us have a cheque made payable to CAMRA Investment Club. Neil Kellett will then present Holt’s with a cheque to The Christie on behalf of the Club.

Further visits in the UK are currently being planned and will be announced here as soon as they are finalised.

The Cantillon AGM

The Cantillon AGM was held on Saturday 21 March 2015 at 15:00.

10 people attended including myself and CMIC member Peter Dyer who travelled in from Luxembourg.

Accounts showed a profit after tax of € 164,395. Again, no dividend – funds required for capital investment.

Cash reserves required for purchase of additional storage for casks – an old brewery building a few hundred metres from the brewery has been purchased for € 400,000. Bank repayments are € 40K per year. To rent would have been € 60K per year.

Unlike the old building this new building is owned by Cantillon. The additional storage for the beer (stored for 1, 2 & 3 years) means that number of brews in a year can be increased by 50% to 60 per year.

Number of visitors to the brewery museum in 2014 was 45,000.

After the meeting the hospitality flowed well.

Report by Neil Kellett – CMIC Committee member