Cash shell Dorcaster (DAR) is to acquire Experiential Ventures for £12m, transforming itself into a leisure business that operates ‘escape room’ games.
Escape rooms encourage a group of people to work together to get out of a locked area within a set time limit by finding clues and solving puzzles.
People can tackle a range of pretend scenarios such as evading a kidnapper or murderer or even saving the world from destruction.
It all sounds exciting – but certainly not as an investment.
OVERPAYING FOR THE DEAL
Dorcaster is paying the equivalent of 40 times profit for Experiential which is the holding company for Escape Hunt Group. That amount is far too high, in our view.
The target business generated £1.1m revenue and £0.3m pre-tax profit in 2016 from 20 countries. The margins look good because this is almost entirely a franchise business.
Escape Hunt opened its first branch in Thailand 2013 and now has 214 operational rooms across 38 sites.
Dorcaster believes it can expand Escape Hunt’s product range to include games for corporate team building and large scale events where thousands of people could potentially play at the same time in a prison or stadium.
PLENTY OF FAILURES
The business has a mixed performance record. Three branches in London, Amsterdam and Cancun left from the franchise network in 2015 due to contractual differences.
Six branches closed in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia the following year. Management blamed ‘limited local spending power, low tourism, consumer pedestrian flow and low densities of corporate offices’.
These reasons should be doubted as Thailand alone received 32.59m foreign visitors in 2016 – a record number according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Escape Hunt also faces a lot of competition in a space that has experienced rapid growth in a short amount of time.
It is estimated the number of escape rooms in the UK industry as a whole has soared from one in March 2013 to nearly 600 in December 2016, according to Dorcaster’s AIM readmission document.