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M1NT: Strong profit and high quality

SINCE it was opened two years ago, M1NT Shanghai has fast established itself as one of the city's most glamorous night spots and, according to its Australian founder Alistair Paton, is also now one of its most lucrative.

M1NT has held some of the biggest A-list parties in town, hosting visiting Hollywood stars, as well as corporate events for a range of luxury brands and it's part of a group with venues in Beijing, Cannes and Hong Kong.

Among its biggest events of this year was the star-studded Shanghai International Film Festival Party attended by Adrian Brody as well as the Formula One after-party with drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.

With many clubs failing to make it past the one-to-two-year phase, Paton says he wants to establish M1NT as the premium club in Shanghai.

"What we have in M1NT Shanghai is a landmark and I want to make it an institution and that is my focus," Paton says.

M1NT has a unique ownership structure with shareholders also members of the club, and Paton recently announced the club had posted a half-year US$1.7 million profit and paid a 16 percent interim dividend to shareholders.

Paton says M1NT is the world's first shareholders' club and when the Shanghai arm launched, it issued 95 million shares offshore that sold out.

"The dividend last year was 19 percent, which is pretty strong for the worst financial year since 1927, and this year should be an overall dividend full year of 36 percent so it has done really well," Paton says.

"In addition, the business has zero debt and a price earnings ratio of two times making it an attractive takeover target."

The club has 480 Shanghai shareholders and, while shareholders have the option of selling shares at the end of the year, Paton says none of the Shanghai shareholders has opted to sell.

Shares are currently valued at HK$1.20 (15 US cents), Paton says.

M1NT provides a rare glimpse into the bottom line of a major club in the city and the group is due to release audited financial statements for 2010 to shareholders in the first quarter of 2011.

Paton says that a key aspect of M1NT has been that it has retained many of its team since it has opened, with senior staff receiving allotments of shares.

One of the success stories for the club has also been its restaurant run by British Executive Chef Grant Brunsden, which Paton says is now fully booked for dinner most evenings.

After a slow start and change of chef, the restaurant has hit its straps with Brunsden's designing a robust grill menu.

It has proved a hit, with a range of Asian starters and condiments complimenting substantial offerings to tempt any well-heeled carnivore.

"We have got great seafood, premium meats and great natural produce and lots of organic food so people leave feeling like they have had a really fresh, hearty meal," Paton says.

Members of the public must make a reservation, with an allocation of seats for shareholders.

The club has big plans for the year ahead, with major sports stars set to be attending both the Shanghai Tennis Masters and HSBC Golf Tournaments.

It will also be the supporting venue for the upcoming Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair and is looking to hold parties for visiting music acts such as the Black Eyed Peas and is even looking to attract Lady Gaga if uncertain plans for a visit to China by the pop star get off the ground.

While Paton says he is casting an eye to several expansion opportunities for the brand in other cities around Asia, he says the success of Shanghai has been to maintain top quality through a strong team.

"What we have maintained from day one is that we want to bring an international quality product to Shanghai and we charge the same for drinks as venues do in New York, Paris or London. But a lot of venues compromise on service they see an area of reducing cost by having lower wage staff," he says.

"What we have maintained is the best international standard staff, so cocktails are great, the music is always good and the service is top quality, which is a big point of differentiation for us."


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