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Escape Hunt – site opening ‘delight’… so why are the shares somewhat depressed?

By Steve Moore | Monday 12 March 2018

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from ShareProphets). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

‘Escape the room’ games company Escape Hunt (ESC) is “delighted” to announce the opening of an owner-operated site in Bristol and “excited about the further openings in the coming months”. However, the shares are a currently unchanged 113.5p – down from a 135p May AIM admission. Hmmm…

It is added “the learnings from our first opening will help our UK roll out and benefit the international franchise network” and that “this site is the first of three to open this month, alongside Birmingham and Leeds, with a further five locations to open in the coming months… In addition, in the week before Christmas, the company acquired an escape room business in Bournemouth from a single site competitor for a nominal sum”.

However, it is reiterated that “securing these premium sites and obtaining planning permission has contributed to delays in opening the initial UK sites and their associated revenues” and also noted that since AIM admission there has been detailed strategic review. This has seen “many design and operational changes to the original model” - including “developing higher quality and scaleable games alongside the rebranding… The board carefully considered the consequential delays to the opening programme resulting from this strategic work and determined that the shift in the site opening plan to be well worthwhile and believes it will lead to enhanced longer term benefits”.

Hmmm, we’ll see on that – and, anyway, shouldn’t the business have arrived on the stock market with an already thoroughly reviewed strategy?

Interims showed a loss “in line with our expectations” and full-year 2017 results are to be announced “in early April”. I’ll continue to monitor this, but currently point out that it hasn’t made the most auspicious start as a quoted company and for now the shares are ones I avoid.

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