Shearings revs up for further growth under new owners

The US property investment firm behind the SSE Arena at Wembley has taken full ownership of coach holiday operator Shearings.

The new investment is from Lone Star Funds, a minority investment partner in Shearings Group, which has acquired the remaining shareholding previously held by management.

The change to the ownership structure sees former Travelodge chief executive and chairman Grant Hearn – already a non-executive director on the board – take over as chairman.

Hearn also has non-executive director roles at retailer Poundland and Scandic Hotels as well as being chairman of another Lone Star-owned business, Amaris Hospitality.

News of the investment came as Shearings announced it carried 1.1 million passengers in 2015, up 2% year-on-year, and increased revenues to £201 million (2014: £200 million) – a record in its 100-year history.

It said that “strong demand for its UK holidays, together with margin improvements and operating cost reductions, contributed to the record performance”. 

The Wigan-based group made a pre-tax profit of £5 million, compared to a loss of £900,000.

It increased expenditure on hotel refurbishments to £4.6 million (2014: £3.6 million) and has the largest ever UK order of Mercedes Benz Euro 6 coaches, with 46 new vehicles joining the 240-strong fleet this month.

The group has also bought Chesterfield-based coach tour operator Equalmatch, which operates the Travelstyle and UK Breakaways brands.

Shearings said the acquisition would “complement its fast-growing National Holidays business by expanding its regional presence in the UK”.

Denis Wormwell, Shearings Leisure Group chief executive, said: “This was another landmark year for the group, with a fourth successive year of improved financial results, continued investment in the business, new ownership and our first business acquisition since 2005.

“With the backing of a long-term investment partner, our best ever line-up of holidays and hotels, a well-invested estate and fleet and the loyalty of our fast-expanding over-50s audience, we’re in the ideal position to continue growing our presence and position as the leading escorted tours operator.”