EICC suffers £1.7m loss as bosses eye upturn in fortunes

George Clooney attends the Scottish Business Awards at the EICC last week. Picture: comp

George Clooney attends the Scottish Business Awards at the EICC last week. Picture: comp

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OFFICIAL figures show the Edinburgh International Conference Centre plunged 
£1.7 million into the red last year – around half a million pounds more than predicted.

The after-tax loss was recorded in the venue’s annual audit, which blamed the recession, “aggressive” price competition and a dip in corporate business.

The news comes just days after Hollywood superstar George Clooney addressed 2000 people at the EICC during the Scottish Business Awards.

Last year it was reported the EICC faced an expected £1.2m shortfall, significantly more than the £921,096 recorded in 2013.

Bosses admitted it was “arguably the most challenging [year] to date”, amid fears the venue may need a council bailout in 2016 – but the latest figures show the loss was even greater than expected.

Forecast losses for this year have also been pegged at £1.4m, but yesterday Marshall Dallas, who took over as EICC chief executive last year, said “a record trading year” meant this figure was set to be reduced by as much as £1m by the end of December.

And he predicted the company would be reporting a surplus as early as the end of 2016.

He said: “We have had a really successful year – we’ve produced more revenue than we ever have before.

“I feel really good about the future. With double-digit growth in top line sales for 2015 and a mitigation of £1m from the predicted loss, I feel very good about 2015.”

Mr Dallas also insisted the £500,000 difference between last year’s predicted and actual losses could be down to, among other things, the landmark Atria Edinburgh office development being included in one set of figures and not the other.

Councillor Gordon Munro, vice-convener of the council’s economy committee and chairman of the EICC board, said: “The board recognised there was an issue and swift action was taken to draw up an action plan.

“The EICC’s direction of travel has since transformed and the chief executive’s report was welcomed by the economy committee. It’s clear that the conference centre has had a good year and, under 
Marshall’s stewardship, will continue to move forward.”

The EICC’s annual audit reveals the venue expected a “significant uplift in sales” from its state-of-the-art new Lennox Suite facility, which was introduced last year.

But turnover for 2014 showed an increase of just 0.2 per cent when compared with the year before.

The latest figures were discussed at a meeting of the council’s economy committee yesterday.

Councillor Gavin Corbett, who sits on the committee, said: “I questioned the new chief executive of EICC on the scale of the loss experienced in 2014 under the previous boss. It does seem the former regime struggled with making the business viable.

“Mr Dallas was adamant that 2015 would see significant improvement and that in 2016 the EICC would return a surplus. It’s vital this commitment is kept as the council cannot afford to prop up what should be a self-funding business operation. In a time of savage cuts to core services EICC needs to be earning its keep.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com