The Week In Review: No-frills hotels power success of Whitbread
Saturday 15 December 2007
Whitbread has struck gold with its no-frills Premier Inn hotels. Occupancy is at a best-ever 82.7 per cent, fuelled by demand from business travellers. It is now aiming for another 10,000 rooms via new openings and acquisitions. This week's trading update showed impressive growth from Premier, while Whitbread's Costa coffee shops sharpened the taste buds with sales up sharply, mainly due to new openings. Despite indigestion in its restaurants arm, Whitbread remains a solid defensive stock. Buy.
Game Group is riding the crest of the current wave of video games console demand, with demand for the Nintendo Wii driving its growth. The company has also received a welcome boost as its acquisition of rival Gamestation has been cleared by regulators. But Game warned this week that a higher proportion of hardware sales will reduce margins. However, this should be priced in.
In June, the package holiday groups MyTravel and Thomas Cook got together to cut costs and strengthen their market positions across Europe. Early evidence suggests the merger is going as planned. The savings are set to be better than expected, while the group has overcome tax difficulties and is on track to buy back around 266m of shares. Trading appears resilient with only the US showing weakness. Hold.
If, as widely believed, newspaper advertising is a good barometer of the strength of the economy then the forecast remains chilly. Johnston Press, one of the country's leading regional newspaper publishers is witnessing an improvement, but there are doubts it is sustainable. Analysts believe advertising will, at best, increase by 2 per cent but could be flat. It still looks too early to chase this company's shares.
Has the credit crunch started to hit the really rich? Raymarine makes a range of electronic marine gear such as navigation equipment and rich men's toys such as fishfinders and under water cameras. As well as a strong pipeline of new products the company is mopping up a number of its distributors. The shares look set for fair weather. Buy.
Shares in Mears, which repairs council houses, have lost their way recently, which may have something to do with the market's concern over the long-term intentions of the chairman Bob Holt. He sold the bulk of his shares and handed over the reins to a new chief executive, before returning to the post last year. To underline his commitment, he has agreed an option package. The shares do not look expensive. Buy.
Southern Cross Healthcare is the largest provider of care-home services for the elderly. Growth has been rapid in a sector where it is essential to have scale in order to drill down costs. Despite turmoil in credit markets, Southern bankers are giving full backing to its growth ambitions. The shares have performed strongly since floating in 2006. Southern should soon head north again. Investec has a target price of 832p.
The headwinds which buffeted the reinsurer Benfield Group during the first half of the year have shown no signs of easing. The shares buckled this week after a warning that a weak dollar and softer prices within the reinsurance sector were blowing it off course for the full year. Scope for any significant upside in the short term appears unlikely.
As a result of a cumulative loss of contracts, FKI's Logistex unit will record sales 15 per cent lower than expected in the second half, and profits will also be hit. The warning comes only two weeks after FKI guided toward improved growth, but more importantly, it reduces the attractiveness of the Logistex division, which FKI intends to spin off or sell. Its shares look set to underperform for some time.
Perhaps best known for running the Docklands Light Railway and the country's nuclear warning systems, Serco, the outsourcing specialist, is one of the most successful in its sector, consistently achieving double digit sales growth. Due to profit taking, shares in Serco recently slipped back from a high of 515p at the beginning of May which means they are now within the buying range.
Engineer GKN has a thriving order book and should start to feel the benefit of a three-year cost cutting drive of its automotive operations soon. Its shares have fallen due to jumpy investors worrying about its exposure to the US market. But some believe these fears are already priced in, and the stock could now bounce. Hold for now.
Women love handbags and many are prepared to pay as much as 1,000 for designer ones like Mulberry's. Though growth has slowed recently, sales are still up 9 per cent. Mulberry has ambitions to be a global British brand along the same lines as Burberry. The signs are it has a good chance of succeeding. Buy.
Donald MacInnes: 'I have to have £500 a month spare from now until at least 2035'
HSBC becomes first bank to offer five-year fixed rate mortgage with interest rate under 2%
Are finance apps stealing your personal data?
Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers
Barclays new Blue Rewards hands cash to customers. What’s the catch?
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
- 4 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
- 5 Google search history can now be downloaded in its entirety, mass embarrassment expected
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
iJobs Money & Business
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£30 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst with experienc...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£21000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged b...
Day In a Page
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000