i360 set for £3million loan repayment shortfall

THE controversial i360 is expected to have a £3 million shortfall in loan repayments in the next four years.

City councillors meet this afternoon to discuss the financial plight of the tourist attraction along Brighton seafront.

GVA, hired by the council to review the £36.2 million loan to the i360’s operators, said it would be unlikely to be able to make sufficient repayments until 2022-23.

A year-long break in i360 loan payments is expected to be formally agreed today.

The committee is being asked to defer the £880,000 due at the end of this month.

This would mean an outstanding total of almost £1.5 million towards the £36.2 million loan, which was brokered by the council from the Public Works Loan Board.

In June, the same committee agreed that the i360 could defer £570,000 of the £1.5 million due at the end of June until the end of December.

The i360 paid the council £922,000 in June to enable it to pay the Public Works Loan Board the same amount.

Since then, the i360’s executive director Steve Bax has resigned.

He has been replaced by former London Eye boss David Sharpe who spent several years working for Merlin Entertainments, which now owns and operates the London Eye as well as Madame Tussauds and the London Dungeon.

Mr Sharpe joined the London Eye at a stage when it faced similar problems.

He is credited with helping to turn round its fortunes before Merlin, owner of the Sea Life Centre, bought the London attraction from architects Marks Barfield who also created the i360.

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A report by GVA going before the committee said: “The business plan forecast indicates that the financial performance of the attraction could be improved through a 75 per cent increase in visitor numbers over the next eight years where a more comprehensive marketing strategy is implemented.

“While this is a significant uplift in forecast visitor numbers from what is currently seen, it is a partly a reflection of the current underperformance of the attraction against (marketing consultant) LDP’s expected market penetration averages.”

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