Real estate investment manager buys garden centre and garden centre site

Newcore Capital Management has launched a £50m fund and made its first acquisitions for the new vehicle, which include a garden centre and a potential garden centre site.

Newcore, founded by Hugo Llewelyn, has acquired the 12 acre Yarnton Nurseries near Oxford for £10.3m, reflecting an EBITDA multiple of about 10 times. Yarnton has 24 concessions in a shopping village alongside the garden centre.

Llewelyn said the garden centre would benefit from new housing in the area and increased investment. 

Newcore has also acquired a storage yard at Worcester Park, near Sutton, in Surrey that has planning consent for a garden centre.

Newcore has existing investments in care homes, accommodation and other property.

Newcore's Llewelyn told Horticulture Week: "Our principle aim at the centre is to improve the existing business. There's a lot to do. Richard and Nigel [Wallbridge] were there 49 years and we've got a reasonable amount of capital to put in and take it to the next stage. We can upgrade the carparking and the restaurant and add soft play.

"It's 12 prime acres of Oxfordshire. We can re-organise the traffic flow and add more carparking or use some land for alternative use. But it's business as usual. We're an asset-backed investor that loves businesses that have longstanding underlying credibility."

He said the four acre Worcester Park site in Surrey is hardstanding and was an "opportunistic purchase by the fund in a nice area" that could be developed as a garden centre in the next two or three years.

Llewelyn said as an alternative investor assets such as garden centres were appealing as opposed to traditional investments such as offices or other retail because they are "different". He added that he liked the location and the opportunity to improve Yarnton, as well as the new houses going in.

He said he had three or four concessions in line to take over the in-administration Brantano concession on the site and that as a destination shopping village with cafes the site was attractive in the face of retail competition from the internet.

Llewelyn added that Wyevale and Dobbies have fund investments and have made their offers more "sophisticated" as a result.

He said he was keen to add to his portfolio in the garden centre sector. 

Consultant Neville Stein said: "It could be this investment company has recognised the power of garden retail. It remains buoyant no matter what is going on in the economy. It's a recession-resilient sector, and a lot of sites are ripe for dvelopment too. If you're on the High Street, there's not much else you can do with your property, but garden centres have got real opportunities for development."

Meanwhile, Alexander Mackie Associates has sold Alkham Valley Garden Centre in Dover, Kent on behalf of the Cox Family to an investment company.

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