Mecca Bingo Owners Post Heavy Half Year Losses

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The Rank Group PLC (LON: RNK), owners of the Mecca Bingo chain and Grosvenor Casinos, have posted a £48.6mln pre-tax loss in the half-year to the end of December 2020.

In a year dominated by the coronavirus lockdowns, curfews, and restrictions in the UK, Group net gaming revenue (NGR) plummeted 55% to £177.6mln as like-for-like net gaming revenue from venues plunged by 70% due to the closures. In total, bingo halls and casinos in England were only able to open for 45% of the available days. Meanwhile, in Scotland, many bingo clubs and casinos found themselves unable to open for up to 10 months of last year.

In November, a £70 million equity raise provided a timely boost to The Rank Group PLC's (LON: RNK) balance sheet. Banks also agreed to a 12-month extension to existing debt covenant waivers, with a £50 million minimum liquidity test.

The Rank Group PLC (LON: RNK) Takes Some Positives

Despite the heavy half-year losses for Rank, there are some positives. Cash and available facilities stand at a very healthy £128.3 million. Rank also said that “Customer demand has however been strong when trading has been possible.”

Also, the improvement from the first into the second quarter, solid growth in the Spanish bingo brand Yo, and progress in the development of a proprietary technology platform all provide the Rank management with confidence for the second half of the financial year.

The Rank Group PLC (LON: RNK) chief executive John O'Reilly said:

“The ever-changing restrictions coupled with curfews, which in particular have a seismic impact on our Grosvenor venues, have resulted in an exceptionally challenging first half for the group.”

“I believe we have the balance sheet strength to survive an extended period of closure. We are now focusing on delivering the next stage of our transformation plan and are ready to reopen our venues when the virus is under control and the vaccine roll-out has achieved its purpose.”

The news of a more positive outlook for the Mecca Bingo owners should hopefully prevent further closures of bingo halls. Last year, a number of bingo halls closed up and down the country, although Mecca fared better than Buzz Bingo who closed 26 Bingo halls early last summer.

However, Rank is assuming all its UK bingo and casino venues will stay closed until at least Easter and only reopen on a phased basis after that.  Half expected to open in April, rising to 75% in May. All 76 Mecca Bingo clubs are expected to be open from July.

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