The Mumbles Pier near Swansea was built in 1898 and has been owned by the same family business, now run by John Bollom, since the 1930s. The Bollom family had already carried out considerable work on the pier, with works in keeping with its original Victorian grandeur, including an upgraded beach hut café and a premium fish restaurant, Copperfish, which opened in April last year.
Refinance & Working capital
Tourism & attractions
The owners were looking for more finance to complete the major upgrade to the pier’s girder structure and replace and finish the railings and walkways. However, financing this important work was proving tricky, as the firm’s managing director, Fred Bollom, son of John, explains: “We had surpassed all targets with our existing bank loan and were keen to keep improving our visitor facilities. Our bank wanted to see more cash left in the business and seemed to be fighting the old battles from 2007-8. We’re an unusual, asset-heavy business, and found not many banks wanted to lend to rebuild a Victorian pier.”
Laurence Payne, business development director at HCF Corporate Finance, had been working with the Bollams to source funds for the project. He, too, was frustrated by the attitude of high street banks: “In this instance,” he says, “some of the mainstream lenders had reservations about the somewhat complex security position, in addition to which, they were reluctant to lend against projections, despite solid historic trading results.”
The banks’ reluctance was despite a reliable income stream going back decades from a variety of sources, from amusements, cafes and bars, and that promised to be diversified further through the development. The Bolloms therefore went looking for alternative forms of finance, from a lender that understood the strengths and needs of their business better.
They arrived at a beauty parade – as might be appropriate for a pier – of potential lenders, from which they chose ThinCats.
The Bollom’s accountant, MHA Broomfield Alexander, worked with HCF to present the project financially, plus source and review various lenders. Katherine Broadhurst, associate director at the accountants, says: “ThinCats were flexible about how they thought of the deal, were able to capture what the client wanted, and through a quick offer allowed the client to proceed at the pace they needed to.”
ThinCats provided £1.6m to both refinance the existing bank loan and carry forward the renovation. Finance secured, the Bolloms can now complete the pier stem works and planning permission for the development sites. After this, the plan is to create a 150-seater function suite in the current bowling alley room and further develop the retail offering on the pier.
The funding is a significant boost to the local economy, with everything being sourced from businesses in the area, from electricians from the Mumbles to shopfitters and architects from Swansea. The planning adviser is a (very slight) exception, coming in from Cardiff.
A total sea-change: much better than dealing with high street lenders, as ThinCats appraise the whole business and make a decision based on that, not just on what you can put on a loan application form.