Event reopens cinemas but defers dividends

Cinema and hotel operator Event says a majority of its cinemas in Australia and New Zealand have now reopened after being closed since March due to restrictions imposed to check the spread of COVID 19.

The company has increased debt facilities by $205 million to a total of $750 million in order to boost liquidity and on Monday also announced it will suspend dividend payments as it deals with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

It will not pay a final dividend for the year ended June 2020 or an interim dividend for the half year ending 31 December 2020. Future dividend payments will be considered having regard to lender gearing requirements and the group’s trading performance, it said.

Events cinemas were closed in March after government directives in Australia, New Zealand and Germany. 

The company said it immediately stood down the majority of employees in Australia, New Zealand and Germany and successfully used the government wage subsidy programs in each of the countries.

It also renegotiated supplier contracts, negotiated with landlords and put its operations in hibernation to minimise expenses.

Most of the group’s owned and managed hotels have remained open through the period, with similar measures taken

The group said it has also substantially reduced operating costs at a corporate level, including through job cuts.

Chief executive Jane Hastings, the board of directors and senior executive will also take voluntary pay cuts while wages will be frozen for 12 months to June 2021.

Event will also restrict capital expenditure to deal with the trading environment.

“The COVID-19 period has increased the speed of transformation planned by the business. Immediate strategic priorities include re-opening and recovery, progressing key development projects, and the closure and divestment of certain assets,” the company said in a statement. 

Event said it is unable to provide any guidance on future financial performance due to the uncertainty.

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