Thursday, 27 August 2015

Bunny Chow is the talk of town in Soho, London

Modern, fast-paced lifestyles leave little room to enjoy the meal that makes your day –the breakfast. While you might not always be positioned to prepare one yourself, there’s always the choice to drop by at a nearby restaurant and grab a quick bite. The latest fad in London’s Soho district is something similar but with a South African heritage--the Bunny Chow—a signatory South African-inspired breakfast dish served with an English spin at a restaurant that’s all the rage right now, Bunnychow.  

Having won the ‘most innovative breakfast in the UK award’ earlier this year, Bunnychow has built up wide acclaim for its funky innovations which are a take on the classic full English bunny. The 4 versions here include the ‘Durban Bunny’(slow-cooked mutton curry offered with a choice of toppings including a mango chutney and raita), the ‘Chakalaka Bunny’(spicy chicken and tomato, similarly offered with a choice of toppings), the Piri Piri Pork Bunny’ (pulled pork and Bunnyschow’s homemade Peri-Peri sauce), and the ‘Veggie Bunny’(cauliflower, chickpeas, paneer and a spicy South African sauce).

While Bunny Chow had already made it to the UK through its English adaptation, the full English Bunny, Atholl Milton, the founder and owner at Bunnychow, sought a dash of authentic South African Heritage to the delicacy after his visits to Durban and Cape Town."The actual combo of a bunny and a beer was really appealing and I loved the idea of the bunny being portable and I thought the notion of a portable lunch would work really well in London because it's a city that is constantly on the move,” says Milton –thereby revealing how Bunnychow came into being.

The classic full English Bunny is a hollowed-out brioche loaf stuffed with bacon, button mushrooms, sausages, bobotie spiced beans, black pudding and topped off with a fried egg.  Whether it is to be had handheld or with a fork is a dividing question—while the world prefers a free hand, Londoners find cutlery as their choice.
Bunnychow started off mobile, as a food truck and was soon a successful pop-up shop. The first pop-up shop came up in Boxpark, Shoreditch, London and their new restaurant is opening up on Wardour Street. It is owned by the hospitality group, Shanti Hospitality, a subsidiary of the larger holding company, C&C Alpha Group which has entrepreneurs Mr. Bhanu Choudhrie and Dhairya Choudhrie on the board of directors.  

Monday, 24 August 2015

Alpha Hospitals Acquired in £95m by Cygnet

Alpha Hospitals, the largest purveyor of specialist psychiatric care in England, has changed hands from its international private equity owner, C&C Alpha Group (CCAG) in a £95m sell-off. With the new ownership, Cygnet Healthcare and the parent company Universal Health Services (UHS) have their UK footprint strengthened.

Launched in 2002 with the vision of improving standards of personalised care for adults and children with behavioural and psychiatric conditions, Alpha Hospitals state-of-the-art facilities in Bury, Sheffield, and Woking have been a new high in a sector where secure settings define tertiary care. 

Originally launched by Patricia Hodgkinson, the former chief executive of the Florence Nightingale Hospitals Group, it got on the board the founder C&C Alpha Group, Bhanu Choudhrie. Summing up the acquisition, he said, “The strong interest we had from potential bidders, and the price we ultimately received, is testament to the strength of the business. CCAG incubated Alpha Hospitals and invested in it for 13 years, allowing it to scale up and grow successfully. I am delighted it will continue to grow under a new owner.”

“Our approach is to back management teams which create long-term value. I was on the board at its inception and have always taken a close personal interest in the business. We will now be looking for new investment opportunities in healthcare and other speciality services", he added.

From the first site opened with CCAG’s backing at a disused hospital in Woking, Surrey, in 2003, Alpha Hospitals expanded into Bury and Sheffield and had a turnover of £42.1m for the year ended March, 2014. With rising investor interest, the responsibility of advising on strategic options was handed over to KPMG which ran the sale process.

CCAG runs successful business operations in healthcare, hospitality, real estate, aviation, utilities, and agriculture. It recently brokered a deal for a new cancer hospital in London for £150m for the Abu Dhabi-based VPS Healthcare Group.The private facility would be the first in the UK to offer proton beam

Headquartered in London, C&C Alpha Group is an international private equity firm, with offices in India as well. Established as a holding company for private venture capitalists with more than 30 years of industry captivity, it brings together entrepreneurs, strategy consultants, project managers, and financial analysts to create stakeholder value by organic growth and strategic partnerships.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Atlantic Coast Riding High in Florida

Florida is becoming a happy hunting ground for bank merger activities. The Sunshine State, with over 22 deals worth $643 million for $5.5 billion of assets and $4.4 billion in deposits since 2014, is indeed red hot and is likely to stay that way, suggest reports.

Atlantic Coast Financial Corporation (ACFC) is one of the players to watch out here and should be a calling card for out-of-state banks planning their way into Florida. After a grind through the credit crisis, ACFC’s resurgence has been phenomenal as its non-performing assets are down from 5% to 1.16%, breaking away the mould from being “a troubled institution” to a “conducive foundation”.

Hailing the turnround, CEO John Stephans said, “Our team has worked hard to achieve a strong turnaround at Atlantic Coast and, with five consecutive quarters of profitability following our successful capital raise in December 2013, we believe the results are readily apparent and momentum is building.”
The company has just delivered its sixth consecutive quarterly report with reported earnings per share of 36 cents and there’s no reason this momentum would slow down, experts believe.

Stephans further said “We are pleased to report another solid quarterly performance for Atlantic Coast, marked by attractive loan growth and sound credit quality, notable interest income growth, and continued improvement in our interest margin. Together, these factors contributed to ongoing profitability for our company and its shareholders. Atlantic Coast is now stronger than ever as a result of the hard work and dedication of our team members as we have pursued our ambitious goals, and I am particularly proud of our team has accomplished over the past six months.”

With several bank stock activists and specialists on its shareholders list, building shareholder value may be added pressure, but at 88% of a growing book value, Atlantic Coast is a fantastic stock for navigating and building on the flourishing Florida banking market.

About Atlantic Coast Financial Corporation

Headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, Atlantic Coast Financial Corporation is the holding company for Atlantic Coast Bank, a community-oriented financial institution serving north-eastern Florida and south-eastern Georgia markets through 11 branches.

Set up in 1939 as a credit union to serve the employees of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, the bank got its charter changed from a federal credit union to a federal mutual savings bank in 2000 and focuses on attracting retail and commercial deposits and investing those funds in traditional loan opportunities.

The top leadership of the bank includes Mr. Bhanu Choudhrie, Executive Director C&C Alpha Group and director to Customers Bancorp in Southeast Pennsylvania and Quatro Management in New York.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Lasting Relationships Pay Off, Says Sam Sidhu of Megalith Capital Management

Realty can be a tough profession to excel in if market analysis is not your thing. At Bisnow’s third annual ‘Residence of the Future’ event held recently, key realty personalities, including Sam Sidhu of Megalith Capital Management, shared what works and what doesn’t to get your realty bearings just right.

1.    Bull Markets Won’t Last Forever: “You have to assume the market’s as good as it’s going to get,” says HFZ Capital founder Ziel Feldman. His advice to young developers—no matter how juicy the market is looking, do not have price appreciation dictate your scheme of things.  While Manhattan realty is holding strong at the moment, Ziel feels some developers have gone overboard with their pricing projections for nearby neighbourhoods. 

2.    Be in step with technology: Development is a long game that can be easily outpaced by technology, says Gale International VP Stan Gale Jr.  There’s no point of a project rendered obsolete in the face of technological advances. Think of tech-driven amenities in a more ‘plug-and-play’ manner, like an iPhone that downloads apps as soon as they are rolled out. Contemporary markets are technology-driven, so should be your projects, says Gale.

3.     Don’t Shy off From Public Infrastructure Investments: Aging infrastructure bears down on reliability of services to new buildings, says AFK Group partner Mark Richter, who believes investing in public infrastructure and transit systems is the way forward to smart development. Greenland’s Pacific Park in Brooklyn, for example,  will have an eight-acre park with 24/7 public access and will reconnect the cut-off parts of the borough.

4.     Lasting Relationships over Short-Term Results: Recalling his early days, Slate Property Group principal David Schwartz says he had to offer several lunches to his lenders on his first development project to get them come down Brooklyn and those meetings laid the foundation of long, lasting relationships that have helped him get subsequent projects done.

Long-term relationships far outweigh short-term benefits and that’s where the focus should be on, concurs Sam Sidhu, CEO, Megalith Capital Management. “People tend to be very short-sighted on trying to get the best deal,” he says, as they look for cheap debt or raise equity. “That’s not always the right move to build a long-term sustainable platform”, he says. 

Founded in 2009 by Samveer Sidhu in collaboration with Bhanu Choudhrie, Executive Director, C&C Alpha Group, Megalith Capital Management is redefining investments in NYC with its integrated platform that specializes in the acquisition, repositioning, development and management of residential, commercial and mixed-use properties in the area.