Brighton i360 owner defends financial position as councillors weigh up options

Posted On 07 Jun 2018 at 12:39 pm

The Brighton i360’s biggest individual shareholder has defended the tourist attraction’s request to spread payments to the council over a longer period.

Julia Barfield, one of the architects of the viewing tower, along with her late husband David Marks, said that the i360 was trading at a profit.

But the company’s most recent accounts – to the end of June last year – show a loss of more than £3.6 million.

This is understood to reflect accounting rules for things like interest payments that are due but not necessarily paid.

It also results from accounting rules about recording changes in the value of assets, most of which depreciate.

The i360 has asked Brighton and Hove City Council to be allowed to put off payments totalling more than £1 million a year for up to eight years. It would mean a deferral of about £8.7 million.

This would enable the company to pay off another more expensive loan more quickly. The more expensive loan – totalling £4 million – came from the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership – the LEP.

The LEP said: “We have been approached by the directors of the i360 in relation to our current loan terms and we are engaged in discussions with them and colleagues from BHCC (the council).”

It is believed that the i360 is asking for the interest rate to be reduced.

The LEP loan is dwarfed by the Public Works Loan Board’s £36 million Loan which is underwritten by the council.

The i360’s request will be considered by the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee in a meeting at Hove Town Hall next Thursday (14 June).

Julia Barfield said: “Thanks in large part to our partnership with Brighton and Hove City Council, the i360 is bringing inspiration and delight to hundreds of thousands of people every year.

“It is already the most-visited paid-for attraction in Brighton and Hove.

“It has boosted the local economy and is raising the profile of the city around the world.

“The i360 is making an operating profit but, like many start-ups, we have needed to make some commercial adjustments while we build the business.

“These have included further capital injections from shareholders plus a request for flexibility on the timings of interest repayments to our lenders.

“Under the terms of our proposal, Brighton and Hove City Council would still receive more than enough money to repay its loan to central government.

“It would also still enjoy the £35 million total profit agreed to over the 25-year loan period – but with greater flexibility on payment dates.

“This flexibility would enable the i360 to continue delivering the benefits already being seen in the city.

“To date these include supporting more than 100 local jobs all paying the Living Wage, drawing additional visitors to the city which in turn has benefited the wider tourism economy, paying £2.5 million profit payments to the council which has helped transform the seafront, giving free tickets to the city’s state school children and raising many thousands of pounds for key city charities.

“Our partners recognise the important role this family-owned attraction plays in the city economy and we look forward to continuing our conversations with them in the coming weeks.”

  1. Bob Reply

    No mention of percentage of ticket sales from first two years also due 2018. Odd deal to withhold/bank our money. Also a simple formula to convert receipt into actual ticket sales. Should be paid monthly or be millions lost in any liquidation. Plus provides an open way of scrutinising against projected figures

  2. Bob Reply

    Not very clear. Could the paper please ask
    I360 limited , i360 attractions Ltd and i360 holdings limited.

    It seems that some loans(involving directors) and liabilities for debts to the public are wrapped in corporations that are not easily deciphered.

    My understanding is that hundreds if thousands have been paid in interest to preference lenders . That i360 limited can be left to fail with a lifeboat called i360 attractions ltd for the luck few and salvageable booty.

  3. Valerie Reply

    So much spinning from Ms Barfield – she risks falling over in a dizzy heap!

    Let it fail and take it down.

  4. Dan T Reply

    If you look at the council meeting papers online, the council’s put the important info into Part 2 of the meeting, so it can be discussed in secret. Thy’re saying it’s commercially sensitive, but I can’t see any genuine commercial competition. There was the Brighton Wheel, but that was taken down so the i360 could have a free run at the ‘viewing’ market.
    All the numbers should be out in the open. Let’s see the business case. This is over £40m worth of public money that comes out of our taxes.
    If they are going to be allowed to put off some of the interest payments, the council should callibrate it, so in a good year for the i360 the council gets a proportionate cut.

    • Valerie Reply

      Pt 2 is where they cover their blushes on just how dire a problem this is. The time for delusional ‘optimism’ is over & proper business savvy is needed.

      BHCC has backed a loser & must not throw good money after bad.

      I sat listening to an officer presentation not long ago about their tourism strategy need – the city of sleaze does not pull in better than day trippers, hens & stags. The nightime economy was over-promoted and is out of control. The students are over prominent.

      Zero gravitas and a sleazy image with a stony beach by a freezing Channel sea. But lots of hipsters and great restaurants.

      Even the Brighton Festival seems unable to draw the level of media that the Hay & Edinburgh ones do.

      Once the Brighton Centre goes…..scary

  5. Valerie Reply

    The West Pier Trust must take a hit too surely…

    • Rolivan Reply

      I think the West Pier Trust should me made to fold and the freehold handed back to the Council.What are they actually doing for their mimimum £100,000 a year or are they still paying back Marks Barfield the money they borrowed which was used to keep them solvent which I think should not have been allowed in any shape or form.

  6. Adam Reply

    If a business can’t pay its bills, it is not making a profit!!!

  7. Rolivan Reply

    When the Council approved this why didnt they ask for the figures in a worst case scenario and therefore bringing to light tge need to reduce the dividend payment.Is there going to be any recourse on the Company that supplied the ‘Pie in the Sky’figures on visitor numbers?
    Will Councillor Theobald and Jason Kitcat be brought before The Council to explain themselves?

  8. Rolivan Reply

    Are the owners of The i360 going to or have they already asked for a ground rent reduction from the West Pier Trust?They apparently receive a minimum of £100,000 p.a.

    • Valerie Reply

      Are P&R cllrs likely ti ask this Q? Salient!

      • Rolivan Reply

        It will be interesting to see if Cllr G.Theobald is present?

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