Escape Hunt sees strong post lockdown bounce back from UK sites

Escape Hunt plc

Escape Hunt plc (LON:ESC), a global leader in the growing escape rooms sector, has announced its unaudited interim results for the six months ended 30 June 2021.

Half year ended 30 June 2021 (£’000)Half year ended 30 June 2020 (£’000)
Revenue1,1781,306
Gross Profit801900
Adjusted EBITDA loss, pre-IFRS 16(796)(816)
Loss per share(2.81)(11.48p)

HIGHLIGHTS

· Strong post lockdown bounce back from UK sites which re-opened on 17 May 2021

· H1 revenue £1,178k with UK sites open for only six weeks in the period (H1 2020: £1,306k from c.11 weeks UK trading)

· Site level EBITDA for the half year £441k (H1 2020: 499k)

· Improved EBITDA conversion ratios benefitting from technology investment and labour changes

· Downloadable and play at home games continue to be additive, contributing £151k in the period (H1 2020: £53k)

· Adjusted EBITDA loss in the half year reduced to £796k (HI 2020: £816k)

· Basic loss per share (‘EPS’) of 2.81p (H1 2020 loss per share: 11.48p)

· Dubai acquisition performing ahead of expectations with payback expected in less than 12 months

· Completion of £1.4m placing of new shares at 17.5p per share to fund acquisition of master franchise in France and Belgium and provide working capital

· New UK owner operated sites opened in Watford and Kingston on 17 May 2021 bringing total UK owner operated sites to 14; further sites secured and in build at the Lakeside shopping centre in Essex and in Milton Keynes. This brings us to 16 owner operated sites in the UK and 19 in total

POST PERIOD-END HIGHLIGHTS

· Strong bounce back in sales continuing

· Mature LFL sites delivering 117% of pre-COVID (2019) sales with total sales (including new sites) delivering 192% of 2019 level in the 16 weeks between re-opening and 5 September 2021

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· July and August both profitable at Group EBITDA level (even stripping out UK Government COVID support) which validates our previous assertion that with the existing estate, the Company could become cash generative over a full year

· All owner operated sites trading with positive contribution

· On track to be operating from 20 owner operated sites well ahead of target of July 2022

· Build finally commenced at US franchise ‘super centre’ in Houston after considerable COVID-related delays

· Awarded TripAdvisor™ Traveller’s Choice awards at all eligible UK sites for second year in a row

· Strong cash management ensured cash balance of £2.4m at 30 June 2021 (31 Dec 2020: £2.7m) and £2.4m at 31 August 2021

· Receipt of further £0.95m (net of advisory fees) R&D credits from HMRC in September 2021 which will be recognised in H2 2021 (H2 2020: £0.2m) further boosting cash resources

Richard Harpham, Chief Executive of Escape Hunt, commented: “It has been extremely pleasing to see such a strong bounce back of consumer demand in the UK over the summer.  Encouragingly, we are now beginning to see an increase in corporate activity which we expect to show further growth as office-based work begins to return over the Autumn.  Our acquisitions in both the Middle East and France / Belgium are performing well and we believe they will generate a very attractive return on investment underpinning our international franchise efforts whilst our new sites have all traded profitably virtually from day one. It is clear that escape rooms have now entered the mainstream consumer psyche underpinning confidence in our strategy and the  significant strategic progress made in the last 18 months. Notwithstanding the incredibly tough conditions for the leisure industry during this period, the Company has emerged stronger and with a platform with significantly greater critical mass.  We look forward with optimism.”

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