A buoyant market in the West End of London helped Urbium, owner of the Tiger Tiger chain of late-night bars, bounce back to a 4% rise in like for like sales for the five weeks to December 31 compared to 2002. The result was a sharp turn-around on the company's third quarter, which saw like for like sales for the first 11 weeks drop by 5% as punters stayed out of venues in the prolonged spell of hot weather during July and August. Urbium said the original Tiger Tiger in Haymarket, London, now in its sixth year, saw record December sales, while the regional Tiger Tiger outlets performed in line with expectations, and the whole brand saw sales in line with last year's record levels. However, overall the final quarter trading saw comparable sales up by just 1%, after the company's the three Birmingham units, including the rebranded Apt/Polaris venue, saw sales fall below expectations for the period. John Conlan, Urbium's chairman, said with peak December sales now secured, "early indications are that trading for the full year will meet the current market forecasts." he strong recovery in the West End of London in the second half "illustrates the enduring potential of this huge market, where the majority of Urbium's businesses are located," Conlan said. The strategic plan to establish smaller capacity Tiger Tigers in secondary markets gets under way in June, when the first 1,350 capacity unit opens in Aberdeen, Conlan said, while the second City of London operation, the 850-capacity Abacus at Cornhill, opens next month. The aim, Conlan said, was to secure the same substantial share of the large and affluent City market as the company had in the West End. He spurred on investors by declaring that its current asset values did not reflect the company's strengths: "The intrinsic value of the company's large share of the West End market, together with the rarity value of the late-night and entertainment licences it held in what is Europe's largest and most affluent leisure and entertainment market, is, we believe, significantly discounted in the company's valuation." However, Conlan warned that the company was going to write off some of the value of its Birmingham outlets, where it had been under-performing for some time "due in part to an extreme competitive situation resulting from local oversupply", in the 2003 results. The non-cash exceptional charge that resulted would be partially off-set by a tax rebate, he said.