Ascot racecourse’s Chief Executive Guy Henderson has highlighted the future impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the track after the publishing of the course’s financial results from 2019.
In his statement accompanying the figures, which were published on Wednesday, Henderson said: “In 2020 the impact of the pandemic has been significant but mitigated by cushions such as the Government Furlough Scheme, Business Rates Relief and pandemic insurance for without crowds.
“That picture adversely changes in 2021 and the business has had to take the appropriate steps to reduce its fixed and variable costs.
“Without our pandemic insurance and the Government support of furlough and business rates relief, our 2020 trading loss would be over £20 million. The year will only be overall cash positive due to that support and a very significant reduction in our capital investment programme.
“2021 will be much more challenging without such support. Our modelling currently projects a significant figure pre-tax loss in 2021. Whilst the business is robust and remains in sound financial health, the journey back to normality will be gradual and determined by the phasing of public allowed to the races.
“We do not expect to see a full return of the public to 2019 levels until 2022. Overall, in terms of our long-term financial flight path, we forecast that the Covid-19 pandemic will have set the business plan back at least three years.”
In terms of 2019 revenues, Ascot recorded a pre-tax profit of £7.3m which was up from £6.1m in 2018. Turnover rose six per cent to £96.8m thanks to a strong performance from fine dining at Royal Ascot and Ascot racedays, a full year’s income from the Bet With Ascot sphere and increased income from broadcast and media rights.
There was further investment and capital expenditures into racecourse facilities during 2019 while net debt at the close of the year stood at £37.9m, down from £50.6m in 2018, which is ahead of the repayment schedule.
Henderson added: “2019 was a successful year and continued Ascot’s planned balanced trajectory of prize-money increases, investment in facilities and management of the loan, with a further ahead of schedule voluntary repayment.
“In the five years ended 31st December 2019, the business distributed £63 million in prize-money, invested £30 million in the venue for racegoers, staff and equine facilities, and halved its debt to £38 million net.”