A 19th-century icon of the Welsh coast is being developed for the 21st century, thanks to funding from alternative finance provider ThinCats.
The Mumbles Pier near Swansea was built in 1898 and has been owned by the same family business, now run by John Bollom, since the 1930s. The Bollom family had already carried out considerable work on the pier, with works in keeping with its original Victorian grandeur, including an upgraded beach hut café and a premium fish restaurant, Copperfish, which opened in April last year.
The owners were looking for more finance to complete the major upgrade to the pier’s girder structure and replace and finish the railings and walkways. However, financing this work was proving tricky, as the firm’s managing director, Fred Bollom, son of John, explains:
“We’re an unusual, asset-heavy, business and found not many banks wanted to lend to rebuild a Victorian pier.”
This was despite the fact that they had surpassed all targets with their existing bank loan.
The Bolloms therefore went looking for alternative forms of finance, from a lender that understood the strengths and needs of their business better and arrived at ThinCats. ThinCats provided £1.6m to both refinance the existing bank loan and carry forward the renovation. The loan agreement took two months, from start to finish. Fred Bollom says he found dealing with ThinCats.
“A total sea-change: much better than dealing with high street lenders, as ThinCats appraise the whole business and make a decision based on that, not just on what you can put on a loan application form. It’s like what banks used to do, but not anymore.”
The Bollom’s accountant, MHA Broomfield Alexander, worked with HCF Corporate Finance to present the project financially, plus source and review various lenders. Katherine Broadhurst, associate director at the accountants, said:
“ThinCats were flexible about how they thought of the deal, were able to capture what the client wanted, and through a quick offer allowed the client to proceed at the pace they needed to.”
Laurence Payne, business development director at HCF, said that he was “delighted to introduce ThinCats who stepped in and provided a thoroughly flexible and pragmatic approach in structuring the deal. They proved to be quick and efficient throughout the whole process which was, in no small way, due to the diligence of Alison Whistance.”
Finance secured, the Bolloms can now complete the pier stem works and planning permission for the development sites. After this, the plan is to create a 150-seater function suite in the current bowling alley room and further develop the retail offering on the pier.
The Bolloms’ solicitor Morgan Laroche also played a vital role, Kevin Thomas, director at the firm said:
“It’s such an unusual property set-up, and ThinCats showed an impressive understanding for the current and future lending requirements,” adding that the lender’s “empathy for the development requirements stood out.”
The funding is a significant boost to the local economy, with everything being sourced from businesses in the area, from electricians from the Mumbles to shopfitters and architects in Swansea.
ThinCats business origination director Alison Whistance (who covers the M4 corridor from South Wales to Reading) said:
“The Mumbles Pier has been a historic coastal landmark of South Wales for the past 120 years and we are very pleased to have been chosen as the funding partner to support this development.”