Nightclub-owner Deltic Group is eyeing bolt-on acquisitions as it lines up an expansion drive following a failed merger attempt with Revolution Bars.
Chief executive Peter Marks said the company wanted to snap up profitable businesses and had doubled the size of its property department to help spearhead growth.
While potential deals will be funded by existing cash flow, Mr Marks said he would call on the support of shareholders or private equity firms if “something that looked a bit tasty” came into his sights.
Speaking to the Press Association, he said after 35 years of experiencing the ups and downs of the night-time economy now was a good time for the business to invest.
He added: “We are now actively looking at building up a pipeline and we’ve doubled the size of our property department to do that.
“We are going to be looking at individual successful going-concerns on a piecemeal basis. We are going to be looking at new sites and to develop the Bar & Beyond brand as well as one or two of the club brands.”
Asked which areas the group is targeting, he said: “We have nothing in Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Newcastle, so obviously they are in the mix.”
Deltic, Britain’s biggest nightclub operator, had become embroiled in a tussle for Revolution Bars, tabling an all-paper merger that would have seen Revolution own 65% of a combined entity and Deltic 35%.
However, its overtures were rejected as Revolution eyed a takeover from Slug & Lettuce owner Stonegate, which collapsed in October after Revolution investors snubbed a £101.5 million buyout bid.
Since then, Deltic has snapped up 1.5 million shares – or a 3% stake – in Revolution.
Deltic, which owns 57 clubs and bars including the Prysm, Atik and Oceana brands, saw like-for-like sales climb 9.1% to £16.4 million over the crucial September to October period.
Mr Marks said the firm was trading in line with expectations and was on track to beat the market, with Brexit-induced inflation failing to dampen nightclub admissions.
He said the company had capitalised on the demise of its rivals, while boosting footfall by refurbishing its estate.
He added: “Something like 40% of the nightclubs have closed over the last 10 years, which has been a good thing because it means that those of us that are left, who have got invested businesses in good towns with high employment and decent prospects, are prospering.”
While Deltic is not engaged in active talks with any private equity houses, Mr Marks said the company’s eyes and ears remained open.
“We have had one or two discussions with private equity,” he added.
“They are quite interested in our space and they are beginning to understand that food has got a bit more difficult and wet-led businesses are getting a bit easier.
“We have had approaches, but nothing that has been worth doing at this moment in time because we want to make sure that the business is bang on and we have got a great story.”