Upbeat Park Resorts seeks acquisitions

Domestic holiday operator Park Resorts is seeking acquisitions across the country while investing about £20 million a year in improving and developing its 49 existing sites.

Chief executive David Boden said that buying new parks in the west country was a priority.

“There’s a huge gap in the southwest,” he told the Times. “It is the most popular holiday destination, yet we are woefully under represented.”

He was speaking ahead of the release of 2014 results showing a 28% jump in underlying earnings from £45.3 million to £57.9 million, while revenues rose by 7.5% to £230 million as the company handled more than one million holidaymakers.

Boden attributed the results to strong trading during the peak summer season, amid rising consumer confidence and the continuing trend for ‘staycation’ breaks.

The figures were also boosted by acquisitions and the addition of 2,000 extra pitches at its existing parks.

Its biggest revenue stream is rent from its 16,700 caravan and lodge owners, followed by sales of caravans, holiday sales and retail, food and drink and other ancillary sales.

The accommodation across its 49 parks spans static caravans, lodges, chalets, apartments and bungalows, while it has 12 safari tents in two glamping villages on the Isle of Wight, a hotel in Skegness and four cottages in the Lake District.

Boden, who estimated the average cost of a week’s holiday at £300, said the investment over the past two years had been much needed after a period when there was “zero capital investment”.

He joined the company prior to a refinancing by private equity group Electra Partners two years ago.

Electra has backed two acquisitions worth about £45 million each – South Lakeland Parks, which added nine venues, and Eastern Parks, adding two much larger venues in Skegness and Hunstanton, Norfolk.

Boden said that he was also keen to boost the company’s presence in Scotland, where it has only two sites, although he would look at any opportunities that came along.

There has long been speculation that Park Resorts, created via a buyout from Bourne Leisure in 2001, could merge with one of its biggest competitors, such as Parkdean Holidays or Park Holidays, each of which has 24 sites.

Boden said that he and his team “still have a lot to do to improve the value of our business” before a merger could be considered, but did not rule it out, the newspaper reported.

“It’s one of the things that has been talked about since long before I came along,” he said. “It’s a possibility.”

Asked whether he would consider a stock market listing, Boden said: “I think we’re a tad small at this stage but I think if there was an IPO opportunity, it would be after we get a bit bigger in 18 months to two years’ time.”

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