Ace Liberty & Stone - Trading Statement
RNS Number : 1919L
Ace Liberty & Stone PLC
29 April 2020
 

 

ACE LIBERTY AND STONE PLC

(''Ace'' or "the Company'')

 

TRADING UPDATE

 

Ace Liberty and Stone Plc (AQSE: ALSP), the active property investment company, capitalising on commercial property investment opportunities across the UK, is pleased to update shareholders on the current positive state of the Company's business.

 

A strong portfolio

 

As at 30 April 2014, the value of the Company's property portfolio was £10,032,267.  By 30 April 2019, that value had increased to £88,323,017, with the portfolio predominantly let to departments of national government (52%), local authorities (7%), and major industrial and commercial entities (38%). The total passing rental income generated by this portfolio was £6,477,438 at 30 April 2020; the secured loan to value was 52.02% and the weighted average unexpired lease to break was 8.72 years.

 

From this position of strength, the Directors followed a policy of continued stability, making no further purchases and allowing the Company to enjoy sustained rental income without incurring costs associated with new acquisitions.

 

The portfolio was fully tenanted apart from one development property in Aldershot.

 

Prior to the national lockdown following the outbreak of Covid-19, Ace's tenants also had a 100% payment record across the whole portfolio.

 

Debt / equity

 

At 30 April 2019, net debt stood at £61,177,102 compared to total equity of £21,170,030, giving a ratio of 289%. At 31 October 2019, this ratio was stable at 292% with 43,198,368 ordinary shares in issue.

 

The 5% CLN issued in January 2018 was due to mature in December 2019. 3,856,000 new ordinary shares were issued as a result of conversions, exercise of warrants and interest payments in the period from 1 November to 31 December 2019 after our last half yearly report.

 

As a result of demand for the Company's shares in January 2020, the directors exercised their options to subscribe for 6,983,333 new shares and immediately sold these on to investors, bringing new cash funds of £4,534,800 to boost the Company's resources.

 

Assessing the economic impact of Covid-19, the directors decided to strengthen the Company's position by offering the holders of the Company's 7% loan the opportunity to convert into new ordinary shares at an issue price of 50p. This was accepted by eight holders thereby eliminating debt of £2,200,000 and future interest payments of £154,000; 4,421,094 new shares were issued, taking the aggregate issued capital to 58,466,295 ordinary shares, which total also includes some minor issues of shares to settle invoice liabilities.

 

Minor impact of Covid-19

 

The Company's tenant base has proven to be remarkably resilient in the face of the current global crisis.  Ace's strategy since inception was to seek governmental lessees because they are least likely to default.  Ace is currently reaping the rewards of this strategy.  Despite the measures introduced by the UK Government to contain the Covid-19 virus, only seven tenants (five in the leisure industry and two in the retail sector) were unable to pay their rent on the March 2020 quarter day. Payments received represented 82% of rents due.

 

The vast majority of Ace's tenants will continue to pay their rent as normal.  Four of the aforementioned tenants who are facing a difficult time during the lockdown period are large organisations already planning to return to full operations as soon as the lockdown ends.

Company response to Covid-19

 

Ace expects to ride out the economic impact of the response to Covid-19, and the directors have taken steps to preserve the Company's cash resources and maintain its strong position.

 

The Company had a healthy cash balance before the impact of the Covid19 on the economy and the actions detailed above have further strengthened this position.

 

Actions taken by the directors to further strengthen the Company's short-term position include:

·      Temporarily deferring dividend payments;

·      Obtaining deferral of tax payments;

·      Seeking a short-term capital repayment holiday from the Group's bankers; and

·      Implementing working from home procedures for employees.

 

The Company's Annual Report for the year ending 30 April 2020 is due for release in September 2020, and the Board will issue a full appraisal of the Company's business at that time. Ace confidently expects the results for the year ending 30 April 2020 to be an improvement on the previous year, subject only to possible impairments to property values.

 

Commenting on progress made and outlook, Ismail Ghandour, Chief Executive Officer, said:

 

"Our properties with stable, long term tenants (mostly governmental) and strong yields are highly attractive investments - even more so during this global crisis. We are extremely pleased with Ace's position and our strong foundation, which will allow us to weather the economic effects of Covid-19."

 

The Directors accept responsibility for this announcement.

 

- ends -

 

 

For further information, please contact:

 

 

 

Ace Liberty & Stone Plc

 

Ivan Minter, Financial Director

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7201 8340

 

http://acelibertyandstone.com

Alfred Henry Corporate Finance Ltd,

AQSE Growth Market Corporate Adviser

 

Tel: +44 (0) 20 3772 0021

Jon Isaacs / Nick Michaels

www.alfredhenry.com

 

 

 

 

SP Angel Corporate Finance LLP

Broker

Abigail Wayne / Rob Rees

 

Tel: +44 (0)20 3470 0470

www.spangel.co.uk 

 

 

 

 

Belvedere Communications

 

John West / Llew Angus

Tel: +44 (0) 20 3687 2756

 

 

ACF Equity Research

 

Christopher Nicholson / Amalia Barnoschi

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7558 8974

 

www.acfequityresearch.com

 

 

 

 

 

Notes to Editors

 

Ace Liberty & Stone Plc is a property investment company with a diverse portfolio of properties located across the UK, currently including Leeds, Sunderland, Plymouth, Dudley, Gateshead, Barnstaple, and London. The Company locates commercial and residential properties which have the potential for an increase in value through creative asset management activity, such as change of tenancy, change of use or new lease negotiation.  Ace has maintained a track record of generating strong profits at disposal of properties and achieving better-than average returns on capital. With strong support from shareholders and mortgage lenders, the Company is currently seeking further investment opportunities in the UK to create value for existing and new investors.

 

Ace is run by a Board with extensive property experience, an excellent network of contacts and relevant professional qualifications. This sector expertise has allowed the Board to identify opportunities and act promptly to secure investments.

 

For more information on the Company please visit www.acelibertyandstone.com


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