NEWS | Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Suncrest to close doors during winter months

Charlot Zahra

Philippe Lonfat, General Manager at the Suncrest Hotel in Qawra, part of the AX Holdings Group of companies owned by Angelo Xuereb, tendered his resignation yesterday, this newspaper has learnt.
Asked whether Lonfat’s resignation was tied with the restructuring plan that the hotel has been undergoing in a bid to become more competitive, Xuereb said that Lonfat’s resignation was “nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just like every other resignation in the sector – people move on.”
Xuereb confirmed that the hotel would be closing in the lean months of winter, when business is very low.
“However, we will be working additional hours in the summer months, when business is better, in order to compensate for the winter stoppage.”
This plan has been accepted by the Union Haddiema Maghqudin (UHM) as well as by the workers themselves, Xuereb told Business Today.
He strongly denied rumours that the Group was in negotiations with a local entrepreneur to sell the Suncrest Hotel.
While as a listed company, Suncrest Hotels plc is bound by Malta Stock Exchange (MSE) rules to make certain decisions public, until now, there has neither been a company announcement about the resignation of Lonfat nor about the restructuring plan.
However, the company’s shares were subsequently converted into bonds through another company, AX Investments plc, therefore its reporting requirements are less stringent now.
According to the latest published financial statements for the Financial Year ending 31 October 2006, Suncrest experienced a loss before taxation of €488,002 (Lm209,443) compared to a loss of €458,134 (Lm196,624) in 2005.
The turnover for the year was €5.29 million (Lm2.27 million) down from €6.17 million (Lm2.65 million) for 2005.
Suncrest experienced a drop of 16 per cent in occupancy during 2006, down to 56 per cent from the 67 per cent achieved in 2005. The hotel’s average room rate however increased from €24.30 (Lm 10.43) in 2005 to €27.49 (Lm11.80) in 2006.
The deterioration in the hotel’s gross operating profit margin was mainly attributable to the fall in revenue and higher operating costs per room night.
The Suncrest Hotel reopened its doors on March 21 last year following a Lm500,000 refurbishment programme that lasted 11 weeks.
The upgrading effort took in the technical plant, guest rooms and public areas. The conference facilities now have parquet flooring and a new sound and visual system.
Restaurants, kitchens and service areas were also revamped. While the hotel was closed, new staff was employed at all levels in a restructuring and reorganisation drive.
At the time, the hotel’s general manager, Philippe Lonfat, told the press that the refurbishment has strengthened the Suncrest as “a year-round hotel, attracting out-of-season trade especially in the conference and incentive business.”
He also expressed satisfaction at the positive trend in bookings for the weeks that followed.
Suncrest Hotels plc, which forms part of the AX Holdings Group of Companies, owns and operates the Suncrest Hotel in Qawra. It holds a four star gold rating and has a total of 458 rooms and multiple conferencing facilities for up to 350 delegates.
The Suncrest has minority holdings in two other AX Group hospitality ventures, Central Hotels Ltd, which owns and operates the Victoria Hotel in Sliema, and Royal Hotels Ltd, owner of the Grand Hotel Verdala, Rabat.
The Directors of Suncrest Hotels plc are Angelo Xuereb, Michael Warrington, Claire Xuereb, Chev. Philip A. Ransley, and Dennis P. Roberts.


21 May 2008

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