Hotelier Jim Knox has acquired two hotels in the New England region of NSW in as many weeks with the purchase of the Royal Hotel in Moree and the Whitebull Hotel in Armidale.
In May, Knox – who also owns two hotels in Griffith in the Riverina – bought the Grafton Hotel off the Dougherty family, bringing his recent purchases in the state’s north to three.
The sales were managed by HTL Property, which sold another pub in Armidale – the Royal Hotel – last week.
Knox, who owns agricultural interests in the area, said of his Moree purchase: “We are particularly familiar with the town and have adopted a positive view regarding the prospects for both the pub and the region.”
HTL Property Agent Xavier Plunkett, who managed the deal, said that despite Moree being one of the highest performing pub towns in NSW on a per capita basis, the major pub groups had historically been reluctant to enter the town due to geographical constraints.
“It is however our considered view as agents that these high-quality hotels in regional towns actually represent some of the most astute purchasing opportunities on offer across any real estate backed asset class,” he said.
In Armidale, Knox bought the Whitebull Hotel off the Gurr family for $13.25m. HTL Property agent Blake Edwards who managed the sale said it was negotiated following an off-market process.
“We’re delighted to have managed this significant transaction on behalf of Pat and Karen Gurr and we look forward to announcing further similar sales in the region in the approaching weeks.”
The Whitebull Hotel is well known for its food and beverage offering, has 17 poker machines, and a retail offering in the revenue mix.
“A rewarding part of this particular sale process is that Pat and Karen’s two sons, Ben and Tom, will stay on in the business and help drive the best outcomes for the new owner,” Edwards said. “This is clearly not a typical outcome but is one that best illustrates the quality of people involved in the transaction.”
Edwards said that aggregation had become “the new normal in this ever increasingly tightly held asset class”.
HTL Property national pubs director Dan Dragicevich said that transactionally, the highly sought-after regional asset class has kept pace with the metro regions of NSW.
“This trend underwrites our considered view that the magnetism shared for regional investment opportunities will transcend the operating status of international borders.”
HTL Property has also announced the sale of the freehold going concern interest in the Royal Hotel also in Armidale in an off-market sale process and at a price in excess of $5m.
Roche Group, which owns pub, hospitality and accommodation assets in both the Hunter Valley and Mid-North Coast regions, bought the pub off a syndicate of local business people.
The Royal Hotel offering includes a large, full-format pub offering, with bottle shop, pub accommodation, bistro, public bar and gaming in an Art Deco building situated on a high street corner location.
“There are no immediate plans for major changes to the business, however we will look to improve the overall hotel offering with a more food and beverage-focused operation and some management synergies and operational expertise coming from our group’s wider hospitality operations,” Roche Group executive chairman Dominic Roche said.
HTL Property’s Xavier Plunkett, who brokered the deal said: “These major transactions highlight vigorous investor appetite for quality assets in major regional cities.
“Outside of the highly desirable yields on offer in regional areas, increased regional migration, regional infrastructure spending, a lower susceptibility to Covid-19-related lockdown measures, and a robust agriculture-led rural economy are all major drivers of positive sentiment in the regional hotel space.”